Vesterheim Activities at Decorah’s Nordic Fest

July 27-28, 2018

Oh, what a Fest it was in 2017! Thank you to everyone who visited and everyone who helped over the weekend! Find an album of pictures here.

This city-wide festival is held each year on the last full weekend in July and includes fun activities for the whole family. The 2018 Nordic Fest will held on July 27-28 with Opening Ceremonies on Thursday, July 26. Check back for more details.

Traditions new and old abound throughout the weekend. There is always lively dancing, challenging sporting events, delicious food, and lots of other entertainment. To learn more about other aspects of the fest, call the “troll-free” hotline at 1-800-382-FEST, or visit Nordic Fest.

Vesterheim’s Main Building is open from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily with free admission on Thursday.

The museum’s Open Air Division of 12 historic buildings is open Friday and Saturday from 12:00-4:00 p.m. to tour on your own with no admission fee. Guided tours of the Open Air Division are at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday (free) and Sunday (with admission ticket.)

Vesterheim Museum Store has extended hours of 9:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, with sweaters, jewelry, folk art, cooking supplies, books, and more.

Would you like to enjoy Nordic Fest from the inside? Become a Vesterheim volunteer by downloading a Vesterheim Volunteer Help Form for Nordic Fest here. (pdf)

2017 Vesterheim Highlights (Check back for 2018 events):


  • Delicious “Hearts of Goodness” by Nordic Waffles! Stine Aasland, the “Waffle Queen,” and her company Nordic Waffles will be selling these delicious treats in the museum’s Open Air Division. Nordic waffles are different from American and Belgian waffles and resemble the texture of a crêpe. A meal in themselves, they will be served with sweet or savory toppings—delicious!

Entertainment, Book Signings, and Presentations

  • The Newlands Coop - Nordic Roots music by accomplished musicians, Norwegian Vidar Skrede and Finnish-American Sara Pajunen, at 1:00 on Friday and Saturday in the Bethania Church. This concert is dedicated to the memory of Gary D. Svenson (1939-2005) by his family. Svenson took great pride in his Norwegian heritage, Decorah, and the Nordic Fest he helped create through sustained community involvement and deep love.

  • Mette Bowen presents Bunad Advice: Caring for Traditional Norwegian Costumes at 2:30 on Friday in the Bethania Church. Are you the proud owner of a bunad, or hope to be? Learn all about proper care, storage, and cleaning of these heirloom garments from this bunad expert. Mette is a Vesterheim trustee, who was previously the owner operator of L&M Fabrics in Decorah and had the largest selection of cotton bunader under one roof in the United States.

  • Liz Bucheit—An award-winning silversmith and co-owner of Crown Trout Jewelry in Lanesboro, Minnesota, presents Traditions in Transition: Fantasy Filigree Jewelry, describing her creative process. Liz is influenced by her Norwegian ancestry and trained in traditional Norwegian silversmithing. She keeps close ties to her heritage, working as a contract conservator at the Vesterheim Museum and crafting wedding crowns for brides, while venturing into contemporary design, making jewelry and costume accessories for celebrities Prince, Billy Idol, Cher, and U-2. Liz draws inspiration from Norse mythology, even having an entire line of jewelry inspired by the legends of the Huldra. She will talk about how she draws from these rich, traditional resources while creating jewelry that is a unique expression of the artist and her environment.

  • Skjaldborg, from Elk Horn, Ia., presents their Viking encampment and will entertain throughout the day with full Viking combat demonstrations. Skjaldborg means “fortress of shields.” Sponsored by Viking State Bank & Trust.

  • Slooper Society—information and book sales from the descendants of Norwegian immigrants who sailed to the United States in 1825 on the ship Restauration.

  • Book signing by Carol Hoeg Oliver of The Curve of Her Life: Folk Artist Laura Hoeg, the biography of her mother, who was known locally as “The Nisse Lady” for her painting of the nisse figures that sit in many Decorah windows. Friday and Saturday 1:00-3:00 p.m.

  • Oneota Film Festival presents The Viking Battalion, the story of the 99th Infantry Battalion, told by battalion members. This battalion was the only Norwegian-American Battalion in WWII, formed of Norwegians living in America and Norwegian Americans. They fought in Europe and were the Guard of Honor for the Royal Family on their return to Oslo in 1945. The Oneota Film Festival brings together hundreds of film enthusiasts in scenic Northeast Iowa to enjoy award-winning films. On Friday and Saturday at 3:45 p.m. in the Bethania Church.

  • “Ole Oleson,” portrayed by living history presenter Roger Hellesvig from Minneapolis, will be in Vesterheim’s Haugan House from 12:00-4:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. He’ll bring the story of Norwegian immigration to life with storytelling and conversation around the contents of his immigrant trunk.

  • 99th Infantry Battalion (Sep.) WWII Educational Foundation representatives offer information and book and DVD sales.

Demonstrations, Displays, and Sales

  • The National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition, a judged show and sale of exceptional pieces of knifemaking, rosemaling, weaving, and woodworking by contemporary American artists. Find more info here. Sponsored by Decorah Bank and Trust.

  • Folk Art School Demonstrators in courtyard outside the Main Building from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. each day. Students and instructors of Vesterheim’s Folk Art School demonstrate a variety of folk arts.

  • Demonstrations by Norwegian artists Knifemaker Morten Håkonsen, woodworker Rolf Taraldset, and rosemaler Egil Dahle.

  • Living Heritage Demonstrators: Blacksmithing, knifemaking, forging, leatherwork, weaving and various textile techniques, woodworking, and figure carving. Sponsored by Decorah Bank and Trust.

  • Woodworking demonstrations by Becky Lusk, Hans Sandom, Phil Odden, and Else Bigton.

  • Filigree jewelry making by jeweler Liz Bucheit (Satuday only).

  • Ropemaking demonstrations by Dick Enstad.

  • Psalmodikon (stringed instrument) demonstrations by Floyd Foslien and Beatrice Hole.

  • Beautiful woodcut prints of the Decorah area by popular local artist Carl Homstad.

  • Country Gallery Antiques, specializing in Scandinavian antiques—textiles, jewelry, decorated woodenware, sewing tools, kitchenware, prints, and painted furniture.

  • Vesterheim Ribbon-Winning Rosemalers Sales Shop, with rosemaling for sale by Vesterheim ribbon-winning artists. Staffed by Nisse Rosemalers, Postville, Ia.

  • Rosemaling demonstrations on Friday: Nancy Schmidt, Gudbrandsdal style, 11:00-1:00; Norwegian Egil Dahle, Telemark style, 1:00-3:00; Astrid Fisher, Os style, 3:00-4:30; and on Saturday: Teresa Ann McCue Thompson, Telemark style, 11:00-1:00; Norwegian Egil Dahle, Telemark style, 1:00-3:00; Patti Goke, Agder style, 3:00-5:00.

  • Oneota Weavers and Spinners Guild Sales Shop with hand-felted Santas and Christmas ornaments/figures, hand-woven rugs, scarves/shawls, table runners, and more.

Plus, the Norwegian American Genealogical Center & Naeseth Library gives advice on family research, and Norway House from Minneapolis will have an information booth!

The Norwegian-American newspaper shared this article about the 2016 event. It was great fun to have them visit.