Scandinavian Heritage Park draws visitors from all over

Different sites in the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot include the Gol Stave Church Museum, the Sigdal House, the Dala horse, and a statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Andrea Johnson/MDN

Some 8,512 people signed their names in a visitor’s book at the Gol Stave Church Museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot last year.

Visitors hail from all over. There were 141 visitors from Norway last summer and 512 visitors from Canada. Visitors came from all over the country. The only two states that weren’t represented last year were Delaware and Vermont.

Marion Anderson of the Scandinavian Heritage Association remarked that she should have had her granddaughter, who resides in one of the missing states, sign the visitors book.

Anderson also was quick to say that the visitors book probably doesn’t depict the true number of people who have visited North Dakota’s biggest tourist attraction, as the park was called by USA Today last year.

“There are people that wander all over the park (without signing the book),” said Anderson.

The Gol Stave Church, a replica of a 100-year-old stave church in Oslo, Norway, was constructed in the park and dedicated in 1999, according to informational material provided by the Scandinavian Heritage Association.

The building is 60 feet by 45 feet at the base and 60 feet high. Wood carvers Philip Odden and Ella Bigton of Barronet, Wis., worked on the beautiful interior.

Twelve faces on the post are said to represent the 12 disciples, while the four corner posts represent the four gospels. The dragons outside the church, according to a 13th century sermon, represent the evil of the outside world, which the church combats.

The church is the first thing many visitors to the park at 1020 South Broadway will see, but the park also includes a nod to the heritage of all five of the Nordic countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

Visitors who wander the park can see the 30-foot-tall red, green and yellow Dala horse, which was installed in the park in 2000 by the Swedish Heritage Association. The Dala horse is a Swedish symbol. Swedish craftsman traditionally carve the horses for children’s toys.

The Sigdal house in the park, built in 1771, is representative of traditional Norwegian houses. The home is from the Sigdal area of Norway and was restored, dismantled and shipped to Minot in 1991. Its interior includes a south sleeping room and the main room of the home. Though tiny, the home was once occupied by a couple and their 10 children.

The stabbur, or storehouse, was traditionally used to store food and other commodities. The stabbur in the park is a replica of one built circa 1775 in Telemark, Norway. Ottar Romtveit of Rauland constructed it, then disassembled it and came over with a construction crew to reconstruct it in the park. The building was dedicated in 1990.

A Danish windmill in the park was built by Carl Olson of Powers Lake in 1928.

Also scattered throughout the park are statues of noteworthy Scandinavian Americans, including Norwegian Olympic ski jumper Casper Oimoen, who lived in Minot and competed in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympics, and Sondre Norheim, the “father of modern-day skiing.” There is also a statue of Icelandic explorer Leif Ericson, who might have been the first European to sail to the Americas in the year 1000, and a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish author of fairy tales.

The park is a celebration of Scandinavian heritage that can be enjoyed year-round, during special events and ordinary days alike.

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