Søsterskap in Nevada

Photos courtesy of Heidi Barcia Members of Daughters of Norway Sonja Henie Lodge at their Smørgåsbord fundraiser in Reno, Nev.

Daughters of Norway Sonja Henie Lodge #29 thrives in western Nevada’s Nordic community

Kelsey Larson

Copy Editor

When you think of the Norwegian-American community, you might think of Minneapolis; Minot, N.D., or perhaps Brooklyn, N.Y. But would you ever think of Reno, Nevada?

Yes, this desert metropolis is the home of a thriving Norwegian-American community.  The Daughters of Norway Sonja Henie Lodge #29 was founded in 1971, when Olive Maurstad, a member of Daughters of Norway in Washington state, moved to Reno and got in touch with an old friend, Bernice Schmoke. The two decided to start a lodge, and put an ad in the newspaper. The rest is history!

“Although a relatively small community, we do know that Reno / Sparks sustains a population of passionate Norwegian-Americans. Our heritage is supported by dedicated members and our open arms that welcome all Scandinavians. Together we are the strength and enthusiasm that continues to build in our community,” says Cindy Pearce, President of Sonja Henie Lodge. She became involved with the organization in 1994. “Both my parents are of Norwegian descent and it seemed only natural to be apart of Daughters of Norway,” she says. “We do our best to keep the Norwegian culture alive by presenting historical facts to continue our education and classes such as the folk art of rosemaling.”

Sonja Henie Lodge’s sister lodge, Queen Maud Lodge #42, is just 30 miles south of Reno. There is also a Sons of Norway chapter in Reno, Lodge 6-151 Hvite Fjell. “Many of us belong to both organizations,” says Heidi Barcia, Judge of Sonja Henie Lodge and Grand Lodge President for the Daughters of Norway organization.  Barcia became involved with Daughters of Norway in 2004. “It was such a great feeling to be with other women who wanted to know about Norway then and now.  I still have the same enthusiasm now as when I first joined!” she says.

Naturally, Sonja Henie Lodge celebrates unique local people and events. For example, an event is held every year to honor “Snowshoe Thompsen,” a Norwegian immigrant celebrated for delivering mail – on skis, of course! – across the rugged Sierra Nevada mountain range in the mid-1800s. He usually made the 90-mile eastward trek in an amazing three days. “Many of us participate in the snowshoeing and skiing events, with lots of food and Hardanger fiddle playing,” says Barcia.

Another popular event is the Lodge’s annual Smørgåsbord fundraiser. The event  attracts approximately 275 people each year. “We have hosted this event for 41 years and plan to continue for another 40+ years! I think it’s the lefse, salmon, folk music and desserts that bring them back every time,” says Pearce of the event.

There are currently 73 members of Sonja Henie Lodge. “There are many transplants from Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota here in Reno,” says Barcia. Clearly, folks from all corners of the country have found friends and common interests at Sonja Henie Lodge.

“The sisters of Daughters of Norway are a wonderful and caring collection of Scandinavians in love with our heritage,” says Pearce. “Daughters of Norway has given me so many wonderful friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” says Barcia.

For more information on Sonja Henie Lodge #29 in Reno, Nev., visit http://daughtersofnorway.org/lodges/dnSonj29.html.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 14, 2012 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.