Celebrating 40 Years of Pure Scandimonium
August 23, 2017
Celebrating 40 Years of Pure Scandimonium
MINOT ND -- When Chester Reiten and early supporters determined that Minot needed an event to celebrate Scandinavian heritage, they couldn’t have dreamed of where Norsk Høstfest would be today.
According to his son, David Reiten, Chester’s interest began when he found letters in Norwegian to his family in the old country from the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was instantly curious, so he enlisted a translator and sent a letter to their city in hopes of finding any living relatives. Chester was successful and he began correspondence with his relatives living in Norway. From that point on, Chester wanted “everyone to take great pride in their ancestry and celebrate it,” said David, who’s taken after his father and now serves as the Norsk Høstfest president.
The first Høstfest was set up as a fall festival where local churches and other groups would bring Scandinavian food and crafts to sell at the All Seasons Arena. Duane Brekke, Høstfest board member, remembers when his parents attended the very first Høstfest. They represented the Sons of Norway lodge in Simcoe. The ladies of the lodge would make Norwegian delicacies like lefse, rømmegrøt and sandbakkels. “They were so excited, they were like high school girls getting ready for a tournament,” Brekke said.
From there, with the help of many dedicated volunteers under Chet’s leadership, the festival has continued to grow each year. “It continues to evolve,” said Reiten. “It’s been a fun process because we involve everybody from the people who come to the people in charge of the halls. We figure out what should change, what should stay and what should be added. The evolution is a really positive thing for Høstfest.”
Brekke was friends with Chester from the start and saw the evolution first hand. “When we started the General Store, they focused on bringing Scandinavian cheese to the attendees,” said Brekke.
“We’d cut little samples to give to people and got them to taste it. Jarlsberg was the biggest one that caught on,” Brekke continued. “I talked to the Marketplace Manager in casual conversation and learned that the introduction of Scandinavian cheese to our area made a tremendous difference in their inventory. By sampling, we really made a difference.”
Cheese sales isn’t the only impact Norsk Høstfest has had on the Minot area. Over the years, Schatz Crossroads started selling lutefisk during Høstfest. Home of Economy started selling more skillets to cook lefse and now even host lefse bake-offs in conjunction with the event.
“We had great leaders from the beginning,” said Brekke. “And wonderful volunteers who matched people with the right jobs. Chester told everyone what to do. He was a little forceful, but a terrific leader. Volunteers responded well to him.”
The one-day fall festival has now grown to an all-encompassing four-day festival experience at the North Dakota State Fair Center. But the planning team has never lost their do-it-yourself attitude.
In earlier years, Brekke’s father, Sam Brekke, handcrafted a Viking ship that filled the length of the stage and Duane’s wife, Jeanne Brekke, painted it. She also painted the trolls you’ll still see throughout the festival.
Becky Piehl coordinates the decorating each year and it takes two to three weeks of volunteer work to transform the North Dakota State Fair Center into a Scandinavian wonderland.
“I give Becky a big heads up for how well she decorates the place each year,” said Brekke. “At the beginning, we’d go in the day before, dust off the chairs and tables and go to work. The first year, people even brought their own tables!”
The mission of the event has remained constant, but some of the logistics have changed. According to Reiten, the most notable changes in recent years include adding Viking Village, renting additional venue space to support more exhibits, upgrading Høstfest University and recruiting Scandinavian acts.
Throughout this publication, you’ll learn more about the new features added to celebrate the 40th anniversary like a larger than life kransekake, a Royal Reunion and more.
When you combine a dream with some hard work and fantastic people, anything is possible — even 40 years of Scandimonium and the title of North America’s largest Scandinavian festival!
To learn more, visit hostfest.com or call (701) 852-2368.
Main Stage Performances
The Oak Ridge Boys
Joe Diffie and John Michael Montgomery
The Doobie Brothers
Little River Band
Gary Allan and Josh Turner
Performing on the free stages are:
Ricky Nelson Remembered
Williams & Ree
The European Highwaymen
Ryan Keplin as Fiddling Lefty
Millie & Glenn
Hunky Dory Scandinavian All-Stars
Swedes in the Weeds
Sigrun and Helgi
Skandi Ski Fantasy
Høstfest Accordion Club
Magic Tap Cloggers
Gordy Linquist as “Crazy Fingers”
Western Plains Children’s Choir
Uffda I Ate It All Eating Contest
Bunad Style Show
Scandinavian Antiques Show & Tell
And many more!
Besides great entertainment, Norsk Høstfest will spotlight Scandinavian culture, artisan crafts, Nordic shopping, nightly dances, and of course, great authentic Scandinavian cuisine.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
Norsk Høstfest is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization the raised funds to preserve, improve and share Scandinavian culture, heritage and educational programs. The Scandinavian festival is held annually in the fall in the North Dakota State Fair Center on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot, N.D., USA. Entering its 40th year, the festival has become North America’s largest Scandinavian festival with tens of thousands of people attending from all over the world. The festival features world-class entertainment, Scandinavian culture on display, handcrafted Norsk merchandise, authentic Scandinavian cuisine plus a fine dining establishment, En To Tre, lead by Norwegian chefs. Norsk Høstfest celebrates Scandinavian culture from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Please visit hostfest.com or call Norsk Høstfest at (701) 852-2368.