SON Third District’s camp up for a vote

The fate of L.O.V. is in the air

Land of the Vikings

Photo: L.O.V. / Facebook
The 151-acre ranch is home to many beloved programs and one Viking ship bar.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Some folks worry that the future of Land of the Vikings (L.O.V.) is in the air. That may no longer be the case, due to to the perseverance and perspiration of two dynamic duos—Barbara and Roy Berntsen and Karen and Steve Helmold—and their Herculean efforts to resuscitate this Sons of Norway refuge in bucolic Sheman, Penn.

L.O.V. was created by the Third District SON Lodges and began as “The Wilderness Project.” Once the goal of forming a getaway was agreed upon, the search began to find land. In 1978, the Big Valley Ranch was acquired; a 151-acre dude ranch whose property included: “open woodland, with a trout pond, a stocked trout stream, …. a main lodge with sleeping accommodations for 50 people, large kitchen and dining area, tennis court, two remodeled homes, a sturdy large barn, a separate office building, and an in-ground swimming pool. Included in the purchase price was the furniture and other equipment needed to operate,” according to the L.O.V. Facebook page.

Many contributed with funds and sweat equity to obtain and keep L.O.V. going. Over the years, their programming grew. Locals often use the space for dining or to visit. Hunters also use the place in season. The Ski for Light program is held on the premises. The pièce de résistance is a finely carved Viking ship bar, crafted by Bjarne Livollen.

It has not alway been easy to maintain L.O.V. Like all organizations, it’s one thing to establish something new, especially a place this complex, but, it is far harder to keep things going as demographics and economies shift. L.O.V. has not been not immune to these challenges. But after a two-year hiatus, L.O.V. is now open for business.

With the possibility of permanent closure, people galvanized to raise funds, holding auctions, raffles, and basket socials. Even though things have been up in the air, it has not stopped the stalwarts from looking to the future. One of their newest events is the Lobster Party, held in August. The board has also hired wonderful new managers: the Budricks, Beverly and her husband, Richard, who is in charge of repairs.

The Helmolds and Berntsens have been working tirelessly to find ways to revitalize this beloved refuge. One goal was to bring back parties chaired by members. Bob Carlsen had run New Year’s parties for 20-plus years, and began chairing these again three years ago. I asked Carlsen what L.O.V. means to him: “Meeting old and new friends. Chairing an event where everyone has a good time. It’s a place to go for all seasons: winter, summer, spring, and fall. It has something to offer for everyone.”

Perhaps one of L.O.V.’s proudest achievements has been their provision of a very affordable youth camp. Barbara Berntsen says that “to be able to hold Youth Camp and learn rosemaling, teach the Norwegian table prayer, raise the flag, and sing the American anthem is wonderful. It is open for those from 8 to 16. Many come back to be junior counselors. Just for Youth Camp alone, it’s worth it to keep L.O.V. going.”

The SON Third District is the landlord and the L.O.V. board is the tenant. Dues from each Third District (which runs from Maine to Florida) member supports repairs, insurance, and taxes for the entity. And it is quite affordable at $6 per member annually.

An important vote is coming up that will determine the future of L.O.V. at the upcoming Sons of Norway Third District convention, scheduled for this June in Hauppauge, N.Y. You have to be member to be a delegate, and each lodge can send two or more delegates. The number of delegates is determined by membership roles.

Berntsen told me, “My favorite part of L.O.V. is that I meet people across the district that I wouldn’t have normally met. You actually get to develop a friendship. You get to know people.”
That sounds like a very sound reason to keep L.O.V. open, as well as Ski for Light, Sports for Health (a summer version of Ski for Light), Youth Camp, lodge weekends, and the remarkable Viking ship bar.

If you are interested in supporting L.O.V., visiting, or holding a family event there, please contact Beverly Budrick at (570) 461-3500. And, of course, vote to keep L.O.V. alive. Feel the L.O.V.!

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.