Royals stir Norway pride with trip to Minn., Iowa

Norwegian class
In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 photo, St. Olaf College sophomore Christiania Miller, standing, works on her royal greeting in Kari Lie's classroom at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. The class is preparing for a visit to St. Olaf by the Norwegian royals.
AP Photo/The Northfield News, Jerry Smith

St. Olaf professor Kari Lie is making sure her 18 Norwegian language students have "Hyggelig Ka mHote Deres Majesteter" - "Nice to meet your majesties" - down pat.

Native Norwegian Gerd Hagen is pulling out her bunad to wear at a formal dinner in Minneapolis. Luther College officials are preparing to unfurl hundreds of Norway's red-and-blue flags on the picturesque Iowa campus.

Norway pride is bursting ahead of an extended U.S. visit beginning this week by King Harald V and Queen Sonja.

It will take them through Iowa and Minnesota - their first such swing since 1995 - before finishing with a series of events in New York.

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In the Midwest, receptions featuring the royal couple quickly filled up and organizers said turnout should reach into the thousands at other appearances. The anticipation is understandable given that the region has the deepest Norwegian heritage, where former immigrants or their descendants are treating the royal visit as a can't-miss event.

"It reassures them all that (the royals) think as much of us as we think of them," said Gary Gandrud, the Norwegian Honorary Consul General in Minneapolis. "This isn't an exclusive club. It enriches everybody to bring their heritage to mind."

The royal itinerary is built around college campuses, landmarks and art galleries with cultural or personal significance to the king.

Enger Tower
In this Nov. 12, 2010 photo, framed by defoliated hardwood trees, Enger Tower glows on the horizon at dusk in Duluth, Minn. The tower will be rededicated by the king of Norway when he visits Minnesota.
AP Photo/The Duluth News-Tribune, Clint Austin

The royal couple will be on hand for the rededication of the Enger Tower in Duluth, Minn., a five-story monument to an immigrant who became a prominent businessman; King Harald's father first dedicated the tower in 1939. The king will spend time with the head of Minnesota's National Guard to thank him for a 39-year troop exchange facilitating training for the Norwegian Home Guard. And they'll help punctuate the 150-year anniversary of Luther College, a school in Decorah, Iowa, founded by Norwegian immigrants.

"We are thrilled that a royal visit would serve as the centerpiece of our sesquicentennial birthday cake," said college president Richard Torgerson. He said he hopes the visit will remind students of a "courageous group of people who came from Norway."

Mallory Heinzeroth, 20, is relishing the chance to sit near the king and queen during Thursday's luncheon at Luther, the first stop of the U.S. visit. She's one of a small group of students afforded the honor - one sure to inspire envy in her family.

"My grandpa is 100 percent Norwegian," Heinzeroth said, adding, "I'm planning for a fabulous day."

While in Decorah, the royal couple plans to tour the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, billed as the largest museum in the country devoted to a single immigrant group.

Up the way at bucolic St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., Lie has known about the visit since last spring and the couple's desire to pop in on a class where their native language is taught. But her first-semester language students got word only a few weeks ago. They'll have had fewer than 14 hours of Norwegian instruction when the distinguished guests arrive.

So Lie has been concentrating on phrases that will allow them to make small talk, particularly the basic "Nice to meet you" greeting.

"It has so many vowels in it and my students always struggle with that one. So we've been really working on it," she said.

Lie knows royal visits leave a lasting impression. She was 7 and in a Norwegian choir that performed for then-Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja when they came to Minneapolis a few decades back. That meeting, she said, sparked her interest in continuing with Norwegian studies.

Bjorn Hagen, a Norway native who moved to Minnesota about 60 years ago, has his own memories of the present-day king. Born on the outskirts of Oslo, Hagen remembers a young Prince Harald as that little boy near his dad on the balcony as parades moved by the royal palace.

Hagen, 85, and his wife, Gerd, are gearing up to see the royalty at a special dinner in Minneapolis, following a more intimate reception for decorated foreign nationals at the governor's mansion in St. Paul. At the sold-out hotel banquet, she'll be wearing her bunad - a traditional, costume-style dress often reserved for weddings, folk dances and civic celebrations.

The event is a hot ticket, and Hagen expects to feel right at home - his old home.

"I'm quite sure there will be quite a few Norwegian songs there," he said in his still-thick accent. But, in typically stoic Scandinavian fashion, he'll let others lead the chorus. "We follow protocol. We don't take over. We go by the program."


Welte reported from Des Moines, Iowa.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)