Lose yourself to Halloween in Norway
American Kristy Kongevold shares her love for Halloween with her local community in Vanse, Norway, putting on an ever-more-elaborate Spooky Barn Maze each year
Kristy Kongevold hails from Illinois but now resides in Farsund, Norway. She runs a thriving beauty studio and is a vital part of the community in the nearby town of Vanse. You cannot take the U.S. out of this lady, however!
The American holiday that delights Kongevold the most is Halloween. Instead of letting it go, she now shares it with her Norwegian community. To learn more about her annual Halloween tradition, I had the opportunity to interview her.
Victoria Hofmo: How and why did you move to Norway?
Kristy Kongevold: I was born and raised in Pontoon Beach—a part of Granite City, Illinois, right outside of St. Louis. My father was from Farsund, Norway, but like many others went to sea as a youth and landed in the USA. The summer of 1972 my mom, who is Native American, took us five children to visit my dad’s family in Norway. I fell in love with the places and people I saw there even though I was only eight years old.
I never really fit in, neither at school nor in my own family, but I felt I fit in in Norway. So all of my growing up, I survived on the thought that as soon as I’m done with school, I can escape on a one-way ticket. And my parents went along with it. So as a graduation present, the ticket was bought. In July 1982, I moved to my dad’s parents’ place and later moved out with my husband. A few years later, we took over the farm my dad grew up on, and that’s where my Halloween Maze is today.
VH: Why is Halloween so important to you?
KK: Halloween is so important to me because I can let loose and come out when I have a mask on! I love using fantasy when the real world gets ugly. Fake monsters are more fun than the real ones out there.
I have no grandchildren yet but love playing around with kids. I could never work with them in a daycare or school—too much responsibility! So I do something no one else does; that makes me the best in my art! And Halloween has so many negative associations that I’m trying to show that it’s not all bad. I want to teach the locals—or all of Norway—the old-fashioned joys of Halloween: making decorations and costumes and using your imagination, scary or fantasy. Not just monsters, but fairies, cowboys, circus, witches, carpenters.
VH: How did you begin your Halloween Barn Maze tradition?
KK: It all started about 10 years ago. My employees at work had started having kids of their own, and since mine were grown up, I wanted to do something playful with theirs. So I invited them and some customers to a Halloween get-together at my home.
The next year I did it again but moved it to a little corner of the barn and invited more customers. I think I did it one more year before I had a year off because I was visiting family in the States.
VH: What happened when you were back for the next Halloween in Norway?
KK: Well the year after I decided to go bigger and better! I had visited a few Halloween houses and events while visiting the States and had ideas I wanted to do. I invited the Red Cross youth group to collect donations since I don’t charge to go through. Well after that they started becoming my assistants and my accomplices in the Halloween Barn Maze.
And I love sharing an American tradition since they want to be so American here in Lista! But I keep it on a childish basis—no macabre, no horror shrieks, not too realistic. More on a Disney level.
VH: Is it the same every year?
KK: I try to change the walls around each year now so the maze is always new. Last year, it was over 75 meters. I haven’t measured it yet this year. I reuse the figures I make but try to add something new too. Last year I decorated the field by the road too, and that was a big hit. So this year I’m going bigger. It gives me a challenge.
VH: How have the locals responded to Halloween?
KK: Until lately there wasn’t much you could buy in the stores for Halloween. But now it’s different. Maybe folks rely too much on store-bought things. I like the challenge of making things myself.
I also teach folks an understanding of the rules of trick-or-treating:
• Don’t go alone.
• Only go to the houses you know.
• Only go to the houses that have decorated and have porch lights on; that is like an invitation.
• Don’t take candy from strangers.
• Don’t take unwrapped candy for sanitary and safety reasons.
• Remember to use reflectors so you can be seen in the dark.
• Watch out for traffic; don’t run on the road unsupervised.
• Have fun, be polite, and have respect.
• All ages can celebrate Halloween as long as you’ve got a costume on. Be creative!
• Not everything has to be store bought: make costumes, decorations, and goodies to be served at parties.
I love talking with people about [the Halloween Maze]. It’s who I have become—who I am. Grown ups say they can’t wait to see it, as well as children. This year NRK has said they want to follow me during the whole Halloween process, from preparing to the end. The problem there is that preparations start in April, and I am not sure if they ever end!
VH: About how many people visit?
KK: Last year we had crowds that stood an hour and waited to get through. That was unbelievable! And we took in 14,000 kroner, which all went untouched to the local Red Cross.
If you’re in this neck of the woods this October, put on your best costume and head to this year’s Halloween Spøkelses Løa Labyrint. This year’s event begins on Friday, October 27, at 6:00 p.m. and runs through Tuesday, October 31, at 9:00 p.m., in Åsen, Farsund. Kongevold even has a Facebook Page dedicated to this event at www.facebook.com/Halloween-Spøkelses-Løa-870188986353383.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 20, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.