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Trolls thrive at Høstfest

Jill Schramm /MDN Jeanne Brekke stands next to one of the 36 trolls she painted in the late 1990s. The trolls have patrolled the Norsk Hostfest every year since.

The Scandinavian trolls that have greeted visitors to Norsk Hostfest for about 25 years will be back to welcome folks again this fall.

Jeanne Brekke, who along with her husband, Duane, has attended Norsk Hostfest since the organization began in 1978, recalls painting the cutout trolls in the late 1990s.

The 36 trolls were cut out of plywood in three sizes, with the largest about 8-feet tall.

“I sanded them and then primed them all,” Brekke said. She painted them according to patterns provided by Hostfest. A former teacher, Brekke said a couple of former co-workers would stop by and pick up paintbrushes to help a little, but the pattern was too particular for them to get very involved with it.

The completed trolls then went to the former Fisher Motors to be given a protective coating that has enabled them to still look good all these years later.

The trolls have lined the Troll Stroll over the years and taken up spots on Chester and Joy avenues.

The trolls weren’t the first Hostfest project for Brekke.

She recalls the time and research she put into making lifestyle cutouts of 17 girls wearing bunads, each representative of a different province in Norway.

“But I made a mistake. I did it in tagboard,” she said. “They decided to put them in the room where they cooked and sold and ate the lutefisk. Well, the steam from cooking the lutefisk, they all curled up in the fetal position.”

Brekke said she’s certain she could have salvaged them, but they were discarded.

Brekke later painted life-sized cutouts of a man and woman in traditional Norwegian costumes — this time on plywood. There was an opening in the faces to enable people to stand behind the cutouts and have their photos taken. Those cutouts eventually were discarded.

Brekke had been asked to do an outline of Norway on plywood, showing cities and geographical areas, to display at Hostfest for people to visually learn where their ancestors came from. That map also later was discarded.

When asked to do the trolls, Brekke wanted a promise that the trolls would be preserved because she wasn’t about to do them again. 

Promise made. Promise kept.

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