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Largest Scandinavian festival in North America coming to Minot

With polka, folk and country artists on the line-up and authentic Scandinavian cuisine and culture waiting to be devoured, the city of Minot is preparing for the 36th annual Norsk H?stfest, North America's largest Scandinavian festival, Oct. 1 th...

With polka, folk and country artists on the line-up and authentic Scandinavian cuisine and culture waiting to be devoured, the city of Minot is preparing for the 36th annual Norsk Høstfest, North America's largest Scandinavian festival, Oct. 1 through 5.

Celebrating the five Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the festival draws tens of thousands of people to Minot every year.

Whether people know a lot or a little about Scandinavian culture, Pam Davy, executive director of Høstfest said, the five-day event is a good time for people to connect with their heritage.

"I have taken several trips to Norway on behalf of Høstfest to make contacts, research, (attend) meetings and Skien sister city visits, and of course, to meet family," she said. "That's true of many, becoming more connected to heritage. Many end up traveling to Norway."

Davy has been involved with Høstfest for 35 years and has had the opportunity to see the festival grow from 1,000 attendees to as many as 60,000.

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"It's this wonderful, unique experience," she said. "I think people love the tradition of it."

Food, entertainment

The festival brings chefs and musicians from Scandinavia to Minot to share authentic food and traditional music.

"Food is a big component," Davy said.

Two restaurants and several sidewalk cafes will be offering food. En To Tre is the Norwegian fine-dining restaurant, and Scandi serves the traditional everyday foods of Norway.

"The cool part about En To Tre and Scandi is that we have world-renowned chefs from Scandinavia come cook throughout the entire festival," said Leann Weber, director of marketing and communication for Høstfest. "They try to use as many Scandinavian ingredients as possible, so the foods are authentic."

Some of the foods served include Swedish meatballs, rømmegrøt, marzipan and rice pudding.

With seven stages and more than two dozen artists, people can enjoy a variety of entertainment while they try new foods.

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The main acts include classical musician Frank Sinatra Jr., rock band Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and comedian Bill Cosby. Headlining the festival, Alabama will perform the last two nights of the festival.

The side stage line-ups feature more traditional Scandinavian music and dance. Davy said she's most excited about the Finnish fiddle band Frigg and the duo Polka Chicks.

Camps, culture

Area children can also participate in the festival by enrolling in the Scandinavian Youth Camps that take place the weekend before Høstfest.

Learning traditional dances, making troll masks and listening to stories, the camps prepare students in grades two through 12, so they can perform at the festival.

Weber said about 70 students participate each year, performing Swedish and Norwegian dances on side stages. Some students also participate in the Troll Beauty Pageant and the Troll and Viking Parade with their paper mache troll masks.

Another kid-friendly aspect of the festival is the Cultural Village, where attendees can see Scandinavian traditions come to life.

"(The Cultural Village) is where you can get the most authentic Scandinavian culture," Weber said.

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Festival-goers can learn from the Sami, the indigenous people of Norway, who set up their lavvos and teepees to tell traditional stories and give cultural demonstrations of wood work and beading.

Tickets are on sale now for this year's festival.

Wendy Howe, executive director of Visit Minot, said hotel availability in Minot has significantly improved over the past five years with more hotels being built specifically in the last year, but reserving a room is still important.

For festival schedules and information, visit www.hostfest.com; for hotel availability, visit www.visitminot.org .

Maki covers Arts & Entertainment and Life & Style for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or jmaki@gfherald.com .

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