Rainy day for Syttende mai
Pouring rain on Sunday didn't deter dozens of Grand Forks residents from celebrating Norway's Constitution Day at the Sons of Norway Lodge. Shaking off umbrellas and shrugging off raincoats, residents packed into the small building to stand in li...
Pouring rain on Sunday didn't deter dozens of Grand Forks residents from celebrating Norway's Constitution Day at the Sons of Norway Lodge.
Shaking off umbrellas and shrugging off raincoats, residents packed into the small building to stand in line for sotsuppe, rommegrot, specialty cookies and other Norwegian delicacies.
Else Rike, 91, stood in the lodge's cramped kitchen preparing riskrem, a sweet rice pudding topped with raspberry sauce. A volunteer cook at the event since the early 1990s, Rike said the event hadn't always offered only lunch and afternoon coffee.
"The first time we did it, we had a Norwegian breakfast, we had the open-faced sandwiches at noon and then dinner at night," she said. "We decided nuh-uh, then we decided to do this."
Through good food and fellowship, the annual event unites residents who want to recognize their ancestry and some who just want a taste of home.
Annie Kemi, a native Norwegian, moved with her family to Grand Forks in September so her husband could enroll in UND's aviation program.
She held her 15-month-old daughter, Johanne, who was dressed in a bunad, a traditional Norwegian costume.
"I really miss home," she said. "So for us, it's so important to be able to go somewhere that kind of reminds us of home and keeps us in touch with the traditions."
Work, work, work
Syttende mai-meaning May 17-honors the day in 1814 when Norwegian patriots adopted a democratic constitution.
But for those who prepare the feast in Grand Forks, the day also marks the end of a weeklong cooking spree. Volunteers spend hours rolling dough, peeling potatoes and preparing a series of open-faced sandwiches to serve an average 400 to 500 per year, they said. Lines of hungry customers usually wind down the sidewalk, said Rike.
Within 10 minutes of its 11 a.m. opening Sunday, the lodge was packed with residents, some saying the event was one they made sure to attend each year. Two volunteers, dressed in raincoats, held umbrellas over the heads of departing visitors as they accompanied them to their car.
Rike said they've never been forced to turn a customer away, but they did run out of rommegrot last year, she said.
"Normally, we have leftovers," she said. "Sometimes, we have a whole cake left and eat it at someone's house the next day."
Kemi said she's had a good experience in Grand Forks and she hopes the younger generation keeps events like these alive.
"It's good when you miss home to come to places that kind of look like home," she said.