Planning for 2016
Preparations for Bygdelagenes Fellesraad’s Centennial Stevne are underway
Gary G. Erickson
Minneapolis’s Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church of Minneapolis, hosted more than 60 officers and delegates from 29 bygdelag (area associations) around the Midwest on Saturday, May 2. The bygdelag were planning the celebratory centennial activities to take place May 5 though May 8, 2016, in recognition of the anniversary of their umbrella organization, Bygdelagenes Fellesraad (the area associations’ common council). The Fellesraad was created when, as Professor Odd S. Lovoll wrote in his book, A Folk Epic: The Bygdelag in America, “The bygdelag guarded their independence jealously, but they were willing to cooperate with one another. This was shown in 1916 when they formed Bygdelagenes Fællesraad.”
Saturday’s stevne (annual meeting) opened with greetings and good wishes by the Norwegian Honorary Consul General, Gary Gandrud, as he represented the Royal Norwegian Honorary Consulate General in Minneapolis; although not a granting of any imprimatur by itself, an appearance by the Honorary Consul General at this planning session spoke to the group of the esteem with which its planning efforts were viewed.
Officers of the Fellesraad, President Marilyn D. Somdahl, Vice President Marilyn Sorensen, Secretary Mary Gross, and Treasurer R. Lee Brown, together with an active group of committee chairs, presented a half-day abstract of proposed activities, venues, and presenters. Activity venues will include the Doubletree Hilton hotel; Brooklyn Center, Minn.; the Earl Brown Heritage Center; Brooklyn Park, Minn.; and the neighboring venues of the Norway House and Mindekirken in Minneapolis. Within the context of two concurrent conferences, attendees will experience an abundance of presentations on topics, which only in part include those such as: Historical Perspective of Norwegian Spirit and Culture, Norwegian/American Contributions to the U.S., and Strength, Grace, Skills, and Education of Our Ancestors. Further, children’s programming will be present for young participants. Both English and Norwegian-language church services will be held at Mindekirken.
Next year will be the 100th stevne for Bygdelagenes Fellesraad. The longevity of the organization and the perpetuation of its attending individual lags belie the predictions of the 1960s that such organizations and affiliations would die out. Norwegian pride in antecedent Norwegian geographical areas, ethnicity, culture, language, and family remain longer and stronger than those of many others of this country’s immigrant populations.
Updated information can be found about the event at www.fellesraad.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 15, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.