Never Missing A 'Fest

August 15, 2016

What enticed Jean Aalund to get to the state fairgrounds early, stand in line in the rain to buy Norsk Høstfest tickets, and then run to get her seat? “The entertainment they were going to have!” she said.

Every year since then – that’s 39 years in a row now – Jean has come to Norsk Høstfest in Minot. In the early days, “everything was in the Great Hall: food, exhibits, entertainment,” she said. She and her friend would take turns going to get something to eat so they wouldn’t lose the close-to-the-stage seats they had raced to claim. “In order to hang on to them you had to stay in them!” she explained.

Through the years it’s just gotten better, she said.

“The entertainment is good. We go to all the free stages, then take in the ones we like to see on the main stage.”

Who does Jean, age 80, like the most? “I like Bjøro Haaland. He never gets old. I suppose if he’d take off his hat we’d see how old he is,” she said with a chuckle.

At Norsk Høstfest, you often get up close to the entertainers. Jean has gotten autographs from Bjøro Haaland, a few other performers, and, of course, from Williams and Ree.

“Now that’s a pair and a half,” she said of the comedy & music duo.


Staying onsite

For the past 10 years or so, Jean’s husband, Ron, has driven their motorhome from their farm west of Mohall, ND, to a reserved spot on the fairgrounds so they’ll have a home base on site. Every once in a while, she and her friend, Maxine Martin of Bismarck, take breaks from the festivities to relax or play cards in the motorhome. While Jean has made it to every Norsk Høstfest since its inception 39 years ago, Maxine has missed only one of them. What about this year?
“Oh yeah, she’s coming! We got our tickets already,” Aalund said.

And Ron? He comes for the lutefisk and lefse “and lots of it!” Jean said. “His mother used to cook it all the time for him, so now he has to go to the Høstfest.”

Every year Jean is sure to buy a container of rømmegrøt (what some people call “rice pudding”). “It doesn’t take me long to finish that thing off!” she said. Maxine prefers the potato klubb.

Ron is 100 percent Norwegian and Jean is a “mixture of everything.” When it comes to Jean’s Norwegian language skills, “En, to, tre – that’s it!” she said.

Norsk Høstfest has everything you need, Jean said. Shuttles take you from your parking spot to the buildings filled with entertainment, food, shopping and more.

“There isn’t anything they don’t have,” she said, “and everybody’s just so happy.”

She marvels at the little ones who come with their parents and wonders what they think of the view from their strollers. “Imagine, sitting down there. All you see is legs.”

She also marvels at the thousands of volunteers. “They’re doing a good job. Those people really work. There’s a lot of stuff to get ready for.”

Are you still wondering if you should go to Norsk Høstfest? Take it from Jean, who will arrive at the festival again this year before the doors open, dressed in her traditional Norwegian cape or sweater: “If you don’t go, you don’t know what you’re missing!”