Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.
We drove to Minot last Wednesday to attend the Norsk Hostfest and hear Emmylou Harris perform. We have lived here for 28 years and never once attended the Hostfest. It was quite an experience.
The Hostfest is a celebration of all things Scandinavian, and is a major trade show, community reunion, cultural celebration, and entertainment venue. I counted more than 200 vendors of food and crafts. About 55,000 people attend annually. Tourists come from the Scandinavian countries to attend. It has all the kitsch you would expect (hence the Rosemaled toilet seat and the Cream of Lutefisk Soup), really wonderful Scandinavian textiles and arts, comforting food, and music all over the place.
The bigger concerts like that by Emmylou are held in “the Great Hall of the Vikings” which is a hockey arena that also serves to show livestock during the ND State Fair. In the various halls named after Scandinavian capitols are smaller stages where various groups play traditional and modern music. There is adequate space for those who want to polka. Hardanger fiddlers, Danish folk musicians, Norwegian Country-Western stars, and Meti musicians play in the hallways and staircases. We missed hearing Ragnarokkr, who bill themselves as Vikings with Guitars. Outdoors are demonstrations of Viking games, crafts, and arts. Many people are in costume. People in troll costumes wander the hallways.
The food is interesting. You can sign up for a six course dinner prepared by fancy chefs imported from Norway, or else visit the food booths. Most of those are sponsored by local Lutheran churches. You can get potet klub, lutefisk and meatball dinners, lefse, Finnish beef stew, sandbakkels, and aebelskiver. There is a lefse making competition that lasts 4 days. Nordic Ware puts on cooking classes. My favorite was the class that taught how to make traditional Viking fare like kale porridge with smoked herring. For some reason, the Germans from Russia were selling Kneophla soup and brats, and there were a couple of places to get baklava and gyros.
Artisans teach classes in making Arctic flutes, making Sami bracelets and rings with spun pewter, felting, knitting, making your own wool using a drop spindle, weaving, and carving a Dala horse.
I suppose this pales in comparison to venues like Ren Fest, but Hostfest has its own charm. It is local and international, sophisticated and silly, all at the same time. I like that one of the Minot banks had a booth where you could write a cheque for cash even if you were from out of town and had your account at a different bank. I like that people were encouraged to go up to strangers and say “Hi, and where are you from” in the hopes that the stranger was a Mystery Viking who would give you $100 I like that many people have been at every Hostfest since it started 39 years ago, and many people stay for the entire 4 days. Emmylou was in good voice. We saw an honest to goodness whooping crane in one of the prairie potholes south of Minot on the trip there. The weather was sunny and warm. It was a good day.
Describe (or invent) a festival that you would go out of your way to attend.