While Norsk Hstfest might be the biggest show in town, it's not the only one.
Visitors have been flocking to Scandinavian Heritage Park on South Broadway all week, drawn in by a hunger for more Scandinavian heritage and maybe a little peace and quiet after the cacophony that is Hstfest.
Verla Rostad, office manager for the Scandinavian Heritage Association, was decked out in her bunad, a Scandinavian costume, while working at the park Friday.
Dan Feldner/MDN --
Visitors to Scandinavian Heritage Park pose for a picture in front of the giant Dala horse Friday afternoon.
"It's been really busy," she said. "We've had lots of visitors, a lot of the bus tours are bringing their groups here."
Since the park doesn't charge admission, there is no real way to track attendance. Rostad said she can take a guess at how busy the park is by a combination of guest book signings, general activity in the park and how exhausted she feels at the end of the day. During Hstfest, it's not hard to figure out the park is much busier than normal.
"I can't give you a number, but I would say at least ten times a normal summer day," Rostad said.
While she might feel pretty tired at the end of a typical Hstfest day, Rostad said it's definitely worth it to bring so many more people into the park.
"It's always more fun when visitors are here and enjoying the park, and you get a chance to show it off," she said.
The heritage association recently received a $100,000 gift from the estate of Edna Solheim, an ardent supporter of Scandinavian culture who passed away in 2009. Rostad said the gift was unique because normally large gifts like that are for a specific major project the association has requested donations for. Solheim's bequeathal wasn't for anything in particular, and Rostad said they are still trying to figure out exactly what to do with it.
"This is the first gift of this size that we've received unsolicited, as part of a planned giving," Rostad said. "Edna Solheim was a friend of the Scandinavian Heritage Association, so we were very honored that she chose to leave her legacy, in part, to us."
While they don't know what it will be used for yet, Rostad said it will definitely allow them to do some dreaming. For now the money is being held in an interest-bearing account.
She said making the visitors' experience better year-round is probably the next avenue they are looking toward. One of their dreams is for a large year-round facility that would be some sort of museum and interpretive center, but until a concrete decision is made on how exactly to spend the money, it remains just a dream.
As for smaller upgrades that might be in the more immediate future, Rostad said the new picnic shelter near the parking lot has been a hit and they have had some individuals indicate interest in funding a couple more of them.
Something else people have asked about is making the banks of the stream and pond more natural looking. Since both features are man-made, a black vinyl liner is used to keep the water from seeping into the ground. While quite functional, its form leaves something to be desired.
"We have to look into how that can be accomplished without making it a maintenance headache,' she said.
Something else Rostad said they have been thinking about is upgrading the Heritage House Museum in the southwest corner of the block.
"Right now it seems a little bit disconnected from the park," she said. "We would like to be able to install a path between the path system in the park and the house so that people don't have to walk across the lawn to get there."
She also said they are always recruiting new volunteers since the current ones aren't getting any younger and will someday reach an age when they aren't able to help anymore.
An upgrade currently being completed might not draw many visitors, but it will certainly be appreciated by them. Along 11th Avenue Southwest a new drainage system was installed because of some water seepage in the lower levels of the Scandinavian Heritage Center, which houses the association and many other organizations, including the Minot Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Rostad noted Oct. 9 is not only Leif Erikson Day, it's also the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the park.
"Our first building was dedicated Oct. 9, 1990," she said. "And that's our stabbur, which is the sod-roofed storage building on the west end of the park."
To commemorate the anniversary, Rostad said they will be doing a $20 for 20 years donation appeal to help raise funds.
While people are free to walk the grounds year-round, Rostad said the side buildings will close after Hstfest and will reopen May 17 of next year.
Cheryl Lodl, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., was enjoying a walk in the crisp fall air Friday. She was of course in town for Hstfest, but also to see some friends.
"I was just driving by and I saw that," Lodl said, pointing at the Stave Church. "I wanted to go see that."
While Lodl has seen the heritage park while driving by before, she had never actually visited until she finally decided to Friday. She was slowly making her way around the park and taking pictures, so she hadn't yet gotten to the Stave Church when she spoke with The Minot Daily News. But what she had seen of the park impressed her.
"It's really nice," she said.
Mike Paulson was watching his 1-year-old son Jacob play in the leaves by the Dala horse, which is next to the church. Paulson, of Duluth, Minn., was in town to see his mom and sister, as well as for Hstfest.
As Jacob giggled while throwing leaves up in the air, his father agreed that he too was loving his time in the park.
"It's great, I'm really enjoying myself," Paulson said. "The church is just amazing."
Ola Svennes had lived in Minot 27 years ago when he was lured away by an engineering job in Washington. He was back in town this week to enjoy Hstfest as well as look for a new home. He said there was about a 20 percent chance he'd move back to Minot, while his other options were in Canada.
Svennes was so enthralled with the Myron D. Peterson MD Courtyard next to the church and its many flowers that he drew a rough sketch of it in a Regina, Sask., travel guide. He said if he never makes it back to Minot and the heritage park, he'll always have that sketch to remember it by.
"It's a great place," Svennes said.
Karen Walz of Minot was spending her very first day as a park volunteer helping people at the church. She said one of the more interesting conversations she's had with someone this week involved a Norwegian man at Hstfest. Her husband asked the gentleman how the "authentic" Scandinavian food at Hstfest compared with real Scandinavian food.
"He's like, 'No, there's too much fried food here, too much fat, too much sugar,'" Walz said. "So he said they actually eat healthier than that over in Norway, which we found interesting."
One very fascinating observation the Norwegian had about Hstfest involved our preoccupation with how life was in Scandinavia at the expense of showing how life there is now.
"He said it's like going back in time," Walz said. "I suppose we are kind of frozen in time with the way it was when our forebears came over."