I didn’t make that word up. Norsk Høstfest did. What, pray tell, is that? Well, it’s a festival celebrating all things Scandinavian – food, clothing, music, crafts, and so much more. Another event we read about and just had to go considering Pat’s Norwegian and Swedish heritage. Plus it’s the 40th year of “pure Scandimonium” if the advertising is to be believed.
Geographic Center of North America
Not so fast. We have a stop planned at Icelandic State Park to fill in our schedule before the Høstfest begins. To get there, we officially re-enter the US and the customs guy takes away my two apples. I have a gift for buying things that don’t have a price or any other kind of sticker on them. These apples were true to form. Nothing to prove their country of origin, so they had to go. My banana made the cut, however. After the customs guy completed a quick check of the motorhome front to back, including the inside of the refrigerator and freezer, we are free to move about our home country again.
We note on the atlas that we’re pretty close to the geographic center of North America. Yes, this is a thing. In Rugby, North Dakota to be exact, and sounds like a photo op to us.
And here it is, conveniently located right on the side of US 2.
And the other angle to show you how it’s also conveniently located in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant. Really? We’re pretty gullible, but didn’t buy this for a minute. Since we stopped for lunch at a cafe nearby, we asked about the monument. The waitress confirmed what we suspected. The ACTUAL center is a few miles away off in some field somewhere. But that’s no good for the tourist photo ops, so the town moved it here when US 2 was widened.
Icelandic State Park
Icelandic State Park is the next stop and we make it with no trouble. There really are more trees and rolling hills here than we remembered in North Dakota. Interestingly enough, this area is part of the Pembina Escarpment that runs all the way up into Manitoba to Riding Mountain where we stopped earlier. An unexpected connection and the reason for the different terrain in this part of the state.
In a rare sunny moment, I was able to marvel at the huge evergreens. Three different trees side by side in three different shades of green.
We were mostly rained out at this stop and spent time doing indoor things, although we did walk Jackson. That is until we heard coyotes howling somewhere nearby one evening. Scared me to death and I’m headed back to the motorhome!
There’s a great Pioneer Heritage Center in the park that we visited during the downpour.
Such a cool display showing the prairie grasses and how deep the roots go to anchor the plants. The ground here can soak up nine inches of rain an hour!
Think about living here as some of the original settlers did. In sod houses like this one.
Have you ever seen one of these? We hadn’t either. Believe it or not, sugar wasn’t always available in granulated form or even in cubes. It came in a loaf and you cut off chunks with your sugar loaf cutter.
We also read about North Dakota’s reputation as America’s bread basket with all the fertile farmland and hardy pioneers settling here to work the land. And that land? Shaped by glaciers so long ago.
Under the flap it says that erratic comes from the Latin word erraticus meaning “to wander”. Big boulders like this one in the area came from Canada and were carried down in the Ice Age glaciers. Who knew we’d end our epic journey with a glacier connection after seeing so many active glaciers in Alaska?
From Icelandic State Park, we journey west a bit to Minot. Why not? Sorry, I just had to. Minot is home to the Norsk Høstfest and is filled with Scandinavian culture. This festival involved camping in the state fairgrounds parking lot, clustered around light poles for power. We still couldn’t reach, but fortunately some kind Canadian gentlemen fixed us right up with a very long electrical cord.
If you ask Pat about this stop he’ll tell you, “I’m just here for the lefse”. Here’s the best picture of the day complete with one happy man.
For those of you unfamiliar with lefse, it’s defined as “a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread”. Kinda like a crepe, kinda like a tortilla, made mostly of potatoes. Pat and all his siblings absolutely love the stuff and remember it fondly from their childhood. This treat is legendary and is rolled out thin with a special rolling pin. From there it requires a special large flat griddle and long wooden turning sticks. It’s a complete pain to make, but oh so good.
And preparing your piece of lefse is serious business. You get a pan, a piece of lefse, and then the ritual begins. Most people butter it carefully. Not too rough with the butter or the lefse will tear. Then comes the sugar sprinkled just so. Some add cinnamon, but most pooh-pooh that addition. Then finally it all gets rolled up. Although one woman turned up her nose at the rolling and insisted that folding was the way. Watching the crowd solemnly prep the lefse was the most fun for me. I tried a bite, but since I wasn’t raised on it, I don’t fully appreciate it’s charms. Ask Pat how he feels about grits and I think you understand.
I did love the Viking on a stick, however. That’s a great big meatball rolled in batter and deep fried. Follow that up with authentic rice pudding and Icelandic fish & chips, and it’s a very good food day. Pat also found some cakey brownies like his grandma used to make.
There was music on the troll stage…
And quite a few accordians…
There was even a group from Sweden who demonstrated real Scandinavian feats of strength.
And a group demonstrating battle tactics with axes, swords and shields.
The authentic crafts were amazing and included great woodworking. The building columns were decorated with many works of art just like this wooden Viking. We watched spinning, weaving, and even rosemaling – a decorative style of painting on wood. On the backside of the building we even found the Iverson Arena. With our ‘son of Iver’ moniker, we’re practically royalty at this event!
It was really a lot of fun and I enjoyed learning about the Scandinavian culture. And Pat? He got his lefse fix.
Next up – our final stop of the Epic Journey and visits with Pat’s brother Rob and high school buddies. See you on the way!