Norsk Hostfest started out with a bang this year, and Jeff Foxworthy hadn't even taken the stage, yet.
Shortly before Foxworthy's performance to open Hostfest Tuesday night, an on-stage donation of epic proportions was made by a local family to the Hostfest-Heritage Foundation - $500,000.
Wally Hankla, president of the foundation, accepted the check, which was presented by Dan Langemo, vice president and trust officer of First Western Bank & Trust. The donation came from the Charles and Magdalene Westlie Trusts, and was being handled by First Western. Magdalene Westlie passed away in 2010, while Charles Westile passed away in 2011. Their family founded Westile Motor Co. in Minot.
Submitted Photo • Wally Hankla, left, president of the Høstfest-Heritage Foundation, accepts a check for $500,000 from the Charles and Magdalene Westlie Trusts at Norsk Høstfest Tuesday night in this photo by Gerald Shonkwiler. The check is being presented by Dan Langemo, vice president and trust officer of First Western Bank & Trust.
"It's been in the offing for a long time," Hankla said. "I had a letter from them in about the year 2000, they said they've provided for it."
Hankla said the $500,000 donation was one gift among others the family has made to local organizations, and it really got the crowd's attention.
"Boy when they announced it and turned that check around ... the crowd just went, 'Ooo,'" Hankla said with a laugh.
The Hostfest-Heritage Foundation was formed to promote and preserve the Norsk Hostfest Association, which runs Norsk Hostfest, and the Scandinavian Heritage Association, which runs the Scandinavian Heritage Park.
"They're the two beneficiaries of the foundation," Hankla said.
The money the foundation raises for the two associations is basically a rainy-day fund. Hankla said if either association runs into unforeseen financial trouble, they are able to ask the foundation for money to help them through the rough patch.
"It's kind of like putting money in the sock for those two organizations. It's a backup," Hankla said. "It's a foundation to hold money for necessities when the organizations might really need it."
The financial help isn't automatic, however. Hankla said the organization in need has to approach the foundation's board and state a case as to why the money is needed. The foundation board then decides whether to release some funds or not.
Hankla said the donation gives the foundation a huge boost, which they are incredibly grateful to the Westile family for.
"This will assist us in doing all these things because we have funds, but this is a big (donation), this will assist us in doing the things that we have to do," Hankla said. "It might also assist us and help us to go out and find other people who might be interested in investing in our heritage."
To learn more about the Hostfest-Heritage Foundation or make a donation, call the Norsk Hostfest office at 852-2368.
Hankla said Scandinavian heritage is intertwined with the people of Minot, and is an important thing to nurture so future generations can enjoy and learn from it much like current generations are now.
"That's such a big part of the fabric of this community, it really is," he said. "It's good for them, it's good for the community."