Sisters Haley Wentz, 17, and Hanna Wentz, 14, took a bit of the Norsk Hstfest to Minot's sister city of Skien and to Oslo and Geilo, Norway, earlier this summer.
"I'm a very proud Norwegian-American," said Haley Wentz, who said the two-week cultural exchange in early June gave them a chance to visit Norwegian schools and act out a program that combines immigrant narratives with folk and modern Scandinavian dances and even a little bit of knitting.
The Wentz girls have acted out their program, which is based on the experiences of their Norwegian immigrant great-great grandmother, for the past few years at the Norsk Hstfest. They're interested in sharing Scandinavian cultural traditions with a new generation in North Dakota and in Norway and making it interesting to younger people as well as older.
The school visits were set up by a Hstfest connection who has lots of ties to Norway, said Haley. The girls traveled with their maternal grandparents, Duane and Jeanne Brekke, and their mother, Susan Brekke Wentz.
This was the girls' first trip to Norway, even though they've been involved in the Hstfest for so many years. They read their great-great grandmother's descriptions of her homeland, but Haley said she didn't realize how hard it must have been for her ancestor to leave Norway until she saw the landscape for herself. Norway's tall mountains and deep, blue fjords are very different from the flat prairies of North Dakota.
The middle and elementary school students who saw their presentation are learning English and enjoyed practicing their conversational skills with the American teens. Haley and Hanna said the kids asked them basic questions about where they are from and asked about the program. Neither Haley or Hanna speak Norwegian or picked up much of the language on the trip, but they said many Norwegians speak English.
The girls wear bunads the Norwegian national costume during the presentation and that is still a style of dress familiar to Norwegian teens. Hanna Wentz said the bunad is a traditional gift given to a teenager being confirmed in the Lutheran Church. Norwegian kids grow up surrounded by their cultural traditions, even if they sometimes grumble about it.
The girls also met with Norwegian dignitaries, including the new mayor of Skien. Haley Wentz said they were treated "like royalty."
It was important to both girls to be good representatives of the Hstfest and of Scandinavian-Americans.
Haley Wentz said she hopes she will be able to perform at the Norsk Hstfest one more time this fall. She will be a senior at Minot High School this fall and will be headed off to college next year, so this will probably be her last opportunity to perform at the Hstfest.