Norway House celebrates its 20th birthday

A new era begins as debt is retired with an optimistic look to the future

Norway House Midtsommer Gala

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
There were confetti and balloons in shades of purple and pink as Norway House in Minneapolis celebrated its 20th birthday at its annual Midtsommer Gala.

Lori Ann Reinhall
Editor-in-chief
The Norwegian American

There was confetti and a balloon drop, cotton candy and gifts, all in shades of purple and pink for Norway House’s 2024 Midtsommer Gala on June 5. The celebration marked the 20th birthday of the organization, which was founded on May, 17 2004.

And there was a  lot to celebrate on that warm and balmy evening. Norway House is now debt-free and has paid off its construction loan with the help of so many in the Norwegian-American community.

Christina Carleton, CEO and president of Norway House, gave a huge thank you to the State of Minnesota for believing in the project and supporting Norway House’s dream to have a site on Franklin Avenue in South Minneapolis. Symbolically, a huge “check” for $10 million was presented by a group of state legislators in attendance, which represented the amount received by Norway House from the state toward their building expansion.

Norway House

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
Dressed in a light-blue party dress and surrounded by Minnesota state legislators, Rebecca Jorgenson
Sundquist, chief development officer at Norway House, showed off a giant “check” for $10 million, symbolic of the funds received from Minnesota state toward the recent building expansion.

The evening was a party from beginning to end, starting with a sparkling pink walkway leading up to the building to set the mood.

“We chose purple and pink to set a fun, festive mood,” said Race Fisher, development associate at Norway House. “It was all about a big birthday party, with lots of sparkle and glitter.”

Guests were welcomed with a special signature drink, a choice of birthday libations that included a “Viking Mule” or a pink “Kick of Guava.”

As at any birthday party, there were also party games. A big hit was the wine pull, which gave players the chance to win a premium bottle of wine. For $20, they could purchase a numbered cork, and when the winning numbers were pulled, it was the luck of the draw.

Norway House

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
A sparkling hot pink walkwaywelcomed guests arriving at Norway House for the 2024 Midtsommer Gala.

The guests did their part, too, to set the mood, arriving in party attire, in this “black tie admired, not required” event. Some men came in white dinner jackets or tuxedos, others in Norwegian costumes. Many of the women picked on the evening’s colors or simply put on their very best with beautiful evening gowns or their Norwegian bunads.

The importance of bunads at any Norwegian celebration cannot be understated, and on this evening, a special nod was given to this tradition with a presentation of a giant  silver sølje brooch from the company Sylv­smidja in Voss, Norway.

Co-owners Anne Kari Salbu and her niece Jade Camilla Johannessen came all the way from Norway to make the presentation in person (see “Sylvsmidja shines at Norway House Midtsommer Gala,” The Norwegian American, July 2024).

Norway House

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
Christina Carleton (left), thanked Anne Kari Salbu (right) of Sylvsmidja, Voss, Norway, for their gift of giant rose søjle to mark Norway House’s 20th birthday.

The Midtsommer Gala is Norway House’s largest fundraiser of the year. It is many months in the making. This year all projections were exceeded, as the gala netted the largest proceeds ever. Both staff and volunteers work together to make it all happen. Gretchen Ambrosier led the charge with the volunteers, and Jill Skogheim and Paula Soholt headed up the decorations committee.

A professional event planner, Erika LaDousa from LDS Events, was engaged to coordinate all the details, and Norway House’s caterer, Chef Fransico of ELMO Catering, took charge of the banquet fare, an elegant three-course dinner served in style.

One major component of the evening’s fundraiser was the gala auction, which took place both in person and online. A variety of items were offered, from rosemaling treasures to vacation packages, including a river cruise in Europe with Viking. Once again, projections were exceeded, with bidders participating online across the entire country, from California to Pennsylvania.

Norway House

Photo: Amy Coppersmith
The live auction was an important event at gala, full of fun and excitement.

Another exciting moment was the“raise the paddle” to fund a need. This year’s goal was to secure funds to purchase new furniture from the  Norwegian company Eikend, as part of a major renovation of Norway  House’s Kaffebar renovation this year. The goal was met, as the generous, enthusiastic crowd stepped up to the plate.

Carleton summed up the evening in an email sent to all of Norway House’s supporters, calling the evening “truly magical.”

“I wish to express sincere gratitude for the tremendous support we received at the gala!” she said.  “The room was filled with so much excitement and energy. Thank you to those who were physically present and those who supported us from afar as we celebrated our 20th birthday!”

With major milestones met for its first 20 years, all eyes are on the future at Norway House. The organization looks forward to the next 20 years filled with renewed energy and optimism.

To learn more about Norway House, visit norwayhouse.org.

This article originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of he Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.