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Syttende Mai

May 17

Syttende Mai

May 17, 2023

Vesterheim invites everyone to celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day!

Syttende Mai is the day Norway ratified its constitution in 1814 at Eidsvoll and Norwegians celebrate with excited crowds—especially children—marching through the streets, waving flags, and singing songs.

Vesterheim’s celebration includes free admission all day. Onsite, there will be a Children’s Parade throughout Vesterheim Heritage Park, a performance by Decorah’s Nordic Dancers, story time, and a hands-on craft making flags! The day wouldn’t be complete without food – free ice cream treats at Vesterheim and traditional food at The Landing Market.

Online, Nordic folk musician Vidar Skrede will give a live stream concert with traditional fiddle music.

Schedule of the Day

On Site
10:30-12:00 – Heritage Park Tour
11:30-12:30 – Hands-on Craft – Making Flags in the museum’s Main Building
12:30 – Storytelling on the third floor of the museum’s Main Building
1:00 – Children’s Parade through Heritage Park
1:15 – Ice Cream Served in Heritage Park
1:30 – Welcome from Chris Johnson, Vesterheim President/CEO
1:35 – Performance by Decorah’s Nordic Dancers on Mill St. near Heritage Park
2:30 – Heritage Park Tour

Online from Home
12:00 – Livestream Concert with Nordic folk Musician Vidar Skrede, join here

Vidar Skrede is a freelance Nordic folk musician, playing fiddle, Hardanger fiddle, and guitar. He is from Norway and currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has a background in the traditional music of Rogaland, his home area in the south west of Norway, and has a masters degree in Nordic folk music at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden. He is known from several bands such as Geitungen, Vidar Skrede DYNAMO BAND, AAMOS, and Secret Carpet Club. Many of his CDs have been nominated for best folk music album in Norway and Finland. Vidar has been sharing his music in the United States since 2010 with various touring groups from Scandinavia. In addition to performing, he teaches music around the Midwest.

Offsite Traditional Food at The Landing Market, 211 College Dr. 

8:00-2:00 – Vafler (traditional Norwegian waffles) with a choice of toppings. Stop by!
5:00-7:00 – Passport Dinner – hearty smørrebrød (open-face sandwiches) plate with bløtkake (cream cake). Child’s plate and gluten-free available. Reservations requested at info@thelandingmarket.com.
5:30-6:30 – Hardanger fiddle music by Eden Ehm

Syttende Mai is a great time to see what’s happening at Vesterheim, and the exhibits Dolls: Playing with Identity; Scandinavian American: Photography by National Geographic Explorer Erika Skogg, which has been extended through May 22; and the newly opened Herbjørn Gausta, 1854-1924!

If there is rain, the parade, ice cream, and Nordic Dancers will be canceled.

Syttende Mai has been made possible for 25 years by generous gifts to the Vesterheim Annual Fund from Jeff and Marilyn Roverud. 

Vidar Skrede playing fiddle

Below are some fun family activities to add to your Syttende Mai Celebration!

Click here for activities that families can do at home together. Be sure to make your own Norwegian flag for your Syttende Mai celebration!

Plus, watch the video instructions on the right for how to make your own Norwegian flag windsock or waving streamer with things you can find around the house! Thanks to Chivonne Marlow, Vesterheim Visitor Services Manager, and Jennifer Kovarik, Vesterheim Youth Educator, for sharing their expertise.

In this video from 2021, Norwegian storyteller Anne Elisebeth Skogen told the story, Schoolgirl and My Very First May 17th Parade in 1962. Anne Elisebeth grew up in the little town of Egersund, Norway, south of Stavanger. With an education in drama and storytelling, Anne Elisebeth runs her own storytelling business, telling stories for schools, organizations, festivals, and companies.

Watch the video until the end to see Decorah musicians Beth and Jon Rotto (playing fiddle and rhythm guitar, respectively) playing Norwegian and Norwegian-American tunes from the Bethania Church in Vesterheim’s Heritage Park last year. Beth and Jon are founding members of the dance band Foot-Notes, who have been playing for old-time dances in the Decorah area for over three decades.

In this video from 2022, Anne Elisebeth tells the story My Last 17 Mai in My Hometown, Now as a Red Russ, her memories of russefeiring, a long-standing tradition for high school graduates in Norway.

Learn how to greet people on Syttende Mai! Take this short Norwegian language lesson from Maren Johnson, Assistant Professor of Nordic Studies at Luther College.

Every party needs food and this bløtkake recipe is perfect for Syttende Mai! This version is from Vesterheim Folk Art School instructor Darlene Fossum-Martin, Vesterheim, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2008 – Food for Thought.

Darlene starts with a basic sponge cake that can be adapted for any version of bløtkake and then continues with her special variation of rosemary, pears, raspberries, and kiwi filling. Find the recipe here and enjoy!


May 17
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