It’s party time! Sarpsborg is 1,000 years old!

Photo courtesy of Sarpsborg Kommune All of Sarpsborg is ready to celebrate its millennium, including Mayor Sindre Martinsen-Evje.

Photo courtesy of Sarpsborg Kommune
All of Sarpsborg is ready to celebrate its millennium, including Mayor Sindre Martinsen-Evje.

Sindre Martinsen-Evje
Mayor of Sarpsborg, Norway

Finally, 2016 is here, the year Sarpsborg celebrates its millennium. In 1016 Viking King Olav Haraldsson, later known as St. Olav, founded our city. He had sailed up the Glomma River, where he saw Norway’s largest waterfall by volume, Sarpsfoss. He knew it was a strategically ideal place to build a fortress—and he did.

People have been living near our waterfall and throughout the Sarpsborg area for more than 10,000 years. We know also that our city was a center of power and an important hub for trade, agriculture, and defense many centuries before St. Olav’s time. We are a part of the ancient Kingdom of Alv­heim. In Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, we read about Gandalf Alfgeirsson, the sixth century king of the Realm of Vingulmark, the ancient name for the part of Norway in which we live. If you have read the books or seen the movies The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, you recognize Gandalf. And now you know that the City of Sarpsborg sits in the amazing Kingdom of Alvheim and the Realm of Vingulmark. We are, indeed, history at its best.

Today we are a vibrant, modern, hi-tech city ready to celebrate our millennium. It would have been very easy to throw a grand party and leave it at that. However, we believe that our 1000th anniversary deserves more. Of course we will party, but more important we will remember who we are, preserve our past—and create memories that will live in the hearts of our citizens for years to come.

But celebrating Sarpsborg includes more than parties and other events. We have made many investments in our millennium city, including a facelift of our city square, a renovation of our promenade, a new amphitheater in our city park, and new art throughout the city. It’s the same beloved Sarpsborg scene—but with updated spaces in which we can all gather and be proud for years to come.

On New Year’s Eve, we welcomed in 2016 with 13,000 people in our town square. The event touched the soul of all our citizens. Service organizations, clubs, churches, choirs and bands have since lined up like pearls on a string with a myriad of momentous events planned throughout 2016.

Other events include Sarpsborg’s grandest Syttende Mai ever, many history lectures presented by national and local experts, a gala from June 3 to 12 featuring His Majesty the King’s Guard, a concert by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, which is affiliated with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, along with a host of local artists, choirs, and bands. Then, July 13-17, we will hold our annual Olav Festival with “true” Vikings, crafts, music, and food in the Lande Park.

The millennium extravaganza will be held Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30. On Friday, Hafslund’s Park features free events throughout the day, including the unveiling of works of art created specifically for the millennium. Saturday offers a “mini festival” and several concerts, including an evening performance by Lionel Ritchie.

Our millennium showcases how Sarpsborg is a great place to live, work, and visit, now and into the future. We look forward to seeing you in 2016 and thereafter. Keep up with our millennium events at

—translated by Leslee Lane Hoyum, Rockford, Minn.

This article is a part of Bestefars hjørne, a feature column by Leslee Lane Hoyum.

This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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