I’ve just returned from a Scandinavian festival in Minot, ND—Norsk Høstfest. I was really looking forward to the trip. I had gone last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. What is a bit unusual about my fond memories is that last year I caught a bad cold at the event (the convention center was like a refrigerator) and then threw my back out to boot. So why such pleasant memories?
It’s not necessarily due to the location. Minot is a rather plain, unprepossessing town/city of almost 50,000. The weather is usually at least 25 degrees colder than Tryon (this year snow was forecast for the day I was leaving). The economy in the area is geared toward farming; one customer at my booth admitted to me that the only time he gets to do any real reading these days is “during calving season.” I nodded my head, unsure whether calving season occurs in the spring, summer or fall (or maybe winter?). I certainly had never heard that explanation before.
So, what is it about Høstfest? Within hours of landing, it struck me. Almost everyone I met, from the shuttle bus driver, the fellow bus passengers, the vendors at the festival, the entertainers, the attendees, were simply among the friendliest, most courteous, most civil people I have ever met. One can’t help but be in a good mood all the time. And the courtesy is genuine—whether it is the woman selling Norwegian waffles, the man supplying Finnish beef stew, or the purveyor of Icelandic chocolate, everyone is upbeat, happy to be there, and committed to your enjoyment as well. It’s a bit like being at a birthday party, or a wedding, with thousands of your best friends.
I think back to last year, when I was in so much pain on the final day that I was having difficulty even walking to the shuttle bus stop. A couple—clearly more advanced in age than I—came along and asked if they could carry my bag. That is why the Høstfest is so special to me.
And if that were not enough, I met some fascinating people as well. One man, now living in Sun City Center, FL, told me that both his grandfather Sigurd and uncle Sverre were arrested the same day in 1943 and sent to Grini, the same camp where Odd Nansen spent almost 18 months as a prisoner. Another man informed me that his grandfather’s uncle was Bernhard Nordahl, who accompanied Fridtjof Nansen on his historic quest for the North Pole. Another woman explained how, as a 9 year-old, she watched the defeated German soldiers leave Norway in the summer of 1945 from the hill beside her house.
Perhaps the most fitting coda to the entire trip came when I reached the Minot International Airport on Sunday morning to fly home. The airport was extra quiet when I arrived a full two hours before my flight—no one at the ticket counters, etc. Finally, help arrived, I checked my bag, and headed for the gate. Not a TSA person in sight. Then I noticed this official looking sign:
The picture quality is not that great, so I’ll recreate the text:
The TSA CHECKPOINT
The Trestle Tap House will
serve customers on the
mezzanine. Just wave at the
staff or call in your order.
Isn’t it comforting to know that even if the TSA is not on the job (which they ‘typically’ are), you can still get service at the Tap House—just wave at the staff.
This tells me more about Minot, ND, than any fancy travel brochure could. I’m already looking forward to next year!