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Happy Leif Erikson Day 2013!

Design by Andrew Saur

Design by Andrew Saur

By Andrew Saur

Duluth, Minn.

For half a century, Leif Erikson Day has been overshadowed by the Columbus Day holiday. For the past decade, I wanted to change this and raise awareness that October 9th is Leif Erikson Day. To promote Leif Erikson Day and to get the message across, I have created a design to commemorate Leif Erikson Day which reflects my strong Nordic heritage.

To give a little more history about this holiday, let us take a look at its beginnings. Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest, where large numbers of immigrants from the Nordic countries settled, have been campaigning for Leif Erikson Day for over a hundred years. In 1930, Wisconsin became the first state to officially adopt this holiday, thanks to efforts by the Norwegian-American initiator, Rasmus B. Anderson. A year later Minnesota followed suit. In 1963, the U.S. Representative John Blatnik, introduced a bill to observe it nationwide. Also that year, Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota entered a joint resolution into the Congressional Record to authorize the President to proclaim October 9 as Leif Erikson Day. Finally, in 1964, Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson and each President since have done so. Presidents have used the proclamation to pay tribute to the contributions of Americans of Nordic descent and the spirit of discovery. October 9th was chosen because of the significance of that date to Norwegian immigrants. It was on October 9th, 1825, that the first Norwegian immigrants on the ship Restauration landed in New York City. Columbus Day is observed the second Monday in October. This year, it was on October 10th. It is very fitting that that Leif Erikson Day was celebrated one day earlier which symbolizes Leif’s precursory discovery.

Being of Scandinavian descent here in Duluth, Minnesota, I wanted to take design elements from the ancient Vikings and unite them with elements from contemporary art. This year’s design was inspired by the Leif Erikson statue in Duluth’s Leif Erikson Park. Leif has his sights set on a new horizon, and a New World. The wind and the waves in the background usher his voyage across the North Atlantic.  Ancient Viking designs are in the background, a reminder of their history.

The journey of Leif Erikson reflects the spirit that has made America strong, as the desire to explore and understand is part of our national character. In commemorating Leif Erikson Day each year, we honor the pioneering spirit of this son of Iceland and grandson of Norway. We evoke memories of the valiant Viking seafarers, who saw the sea not as an edge, but as an entryway to another world. We pay tribute to the courage of their descendants who, centuries later would brave their own ocean journeys to find a new life in the New World. This desire for adventure has remained a fundamental trait of the American character since our earliest days as a Nation. But men and women of the Nordic countries brought other important strengths to this New World as well: ingenuity, self-reliance, determination, a willingness to work hard, a love of freedom, and a belief in human dignity. Through my art exploration, I want to share my Nordic pride with my community.

Imagination and creating art have been a large part of Andrew Saur’s life. From a young age, he has shown a natural ability for design and art. As he matures, he continues to advance his techniques in graphic design and fine art. Saur graduated at the top of his class from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in Graphic Design in 1999. He received Departmental Honors, Magna cum Laude status and was recognized on the Dean’s List ten times while earning his degree. With over a decade of design and art experience, he has exhibited his work around the world. His wife, Angel Sarkela-Saur, and Andrew have pioneered an art movement by creating fine art using coffee as the medium, Coffee Art® as well as his Nordic inspired art. He and Angel live in Duluth, Minnesota with their daughter, Annika.

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.