An estimated 500 people braved frigid winds to greet Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja at a Duluth park Monday afternoon.
Following in his father's footsteps, King Harald V was in Duluth to re-dedicate a historic landmark. In 1939, then Crown Prince Olav dedicated Enger Tower, a five-story octagonal structure built by Norwegian immigrant Burt Enger in 1939 high on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior.
It was fitting, in a way, that bone-chilling winds whipped around Enger Tower. Those North Shore gusts, along with the rain, snow and frigid temperatures have given the iconic tower a beating over the decades. The city has spent about $400,000 restoring the landmark, handcrafted out of native blue stone. King Harald said that work was a big reason for his visit to Duluth.
Slideshow: Enger Tower dedication
"Thanks to the recent extensive restoration work, Enger Tower will continue to be a symbol of the hard work and dedication of the Norwegian immigrants, and their stories will continue to be told to future generations of Americans."
Following the ceremony, the royal couple spoke with the press about the significance of the moment.
"It's very moving actually," King Harald said. "It's part of the friendship and the bonds that are between our two countries"
"It makes us proud," Queen Sonja said.
The atmosphere was festive despite the chill. Well-wishers waved Norwegian flags as the royal couple strode up the walkway to the tower. Bands and choirs performed, including a Native American drum group.
Marcella Foderick made the trip from Ada in western Minnesota. Bert Enger, who built the tower and then donated it along with the surrounding land to Duluth, was her father's first cousin.
"Oh, it made my life, it was so exciting, to meet all these wonderful Norwegians," she said.
One of those fellow Norwegians was Geir Severeide, who joined a group bus from Hibbing. Severeide grew up in Oslo, but moved to the U.S. 15 years ago. He brandished a huge Norwegian flag, red and blue hat, and a patriotic — if tongue in cheek — sweatshirt.
"It says not only am I perfect, I'm Norwegian, too, with the too upside down," Severeide said. "Norwegians like to think that they're perfect, but we're not 100 percent perfect.
He laughs, but is serious when he says he's proud to be a Norwegian in Minnesota. And that feeling was palpable at Enger Park. Duluth Mayor Don Ness called the tower a tribute to the region's Norwegian heritage and a point of personal pride to the city.
"May this tower continue to remind us of the industrious spirit of those who chose to settle the rocky hillside," Ness said. "Men and women like Burt Enger, who measured their accomplishments by their contributions to the city that they loved."
Ness looks forward to 2014 when Duluth celebrates the 75th anniversary of the construction of Enger Tower, and the 150th birthday of the man who had it built, Bert Enger.