Friendship across the Atlantic

Photo courtesy Erling Dugan

Facebook group “Brooklyn Norwegians” meets offline to participate in the American Festival in Vanse, Norway

Erling Dugan

Norwegian American Weekly

It all started back in the fall of 2011 when I launched the group Brooklyn Norwegians on Facebook. I had no idea what to expect and still find it amazing that we now have more than 1,400 members in the group and lots of postings with strings of more than 200 comments.

Early on, the idea started developing that we should march in the 17th of May parade in Brooklyn. It was going to be the 60th anniversary of the parade and one of our key members, Arlene Bakke Rutuelo, was going to be the chairperson. We marched with more than 80 persons in our group as the first Social Networking group in the parade. We actually won first prize in the group Civic Groups! We also had a brunch at the Salty Dog before the parade. The food was provided by the Salty Dog and all proceeds went to the 17th of May Committee. Next year we are looking at the possibility of reviving a Saturday night banquet before the parade together with the Sons of Norway.

But there was another event that takes place at Brooklyn Square which would be a natural place for us to be represented. Where is Brooklyn Square? Probably not where you think it is. It on the south coast of Norway in Vanse which is located “på Lista.” Lista is a large peninsula along the Listafjord. This is an area with strong ties to America. Many in our Brooklyn Norwegians group trace their roots back to this area, which unlike most other parts of Norway, had a large number of emigrants in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. Many of them stayed for some years and then returned to Norway with American cars, appliances, furniture and clothes.

Their annual American Festival takes place during the last week of June each year. And we were there! On June 29 our little group of eight people marched in the Street Parade with our banner as we heard cheers and clapping from the onlookers. Even Santa Claus was in the parade, representing one of the American holidays.

We got our share of American music. Darren Green and well-known Norwegian Elvis impersonator, Kjell Elvis, sang. And we watched the presentation of the two Miss Lister candidates. Only two girls were competing for a free trip to next year’s 17th of May celebration in Brooklyn. We were told that Miss pageants/competitions have a really bad reputation in Norway. Yvonne Tønnesen was the young lady who was chosen and should make a good representative for the Lister region (Western Vest-Agder) at the parade next year.

Four of us had come together by car from neighboring Kvinesdal and we looked around Brooklyn Square. Trunken is the big store located on the square. It has all sorts of American food products, gift items and furniture. Upstairs, the local quilting group had their beautiful work on display. There were also some pictures on display and one of our members, Annvor, found a picture of her and her sister in a 1961 newspaper, ready to fly to Norway with their parents for a visit.

No visit would have been complete without going to the 8th Avenue Bar and Supper Club where we had “real” American food (at real Norwegian prices!). Upstairs they have rooms furnished with American furniture from the 1950s and 1960s that are rented for parties.

The day ended back in Kvinesdal for an American get-together as part of their Emigration Festival with Norwegian fish soup and a film from this year’s 17th of May in New York.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 17, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.