Vivian prepares for 20th annual Norwegian heritage celebration
VIVIAN—Lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, and lefse will reign supreme through the small town of Vivian on Friday.
That is the site of the community's 20th annual Syttende Mai celebration, which is Norway's Constitution Day. The celebration includes a downtown parade, a massive feast for about 200 people and a post-dinner show. All of that is a big deal every May for the small town of 150 people in Lyman County, which is located 35 miles south of Pierre and 50 miles west of Chamberlain.
The event is organized by a group called the Uffda Crew, led by the group's President Vern Larson. There are 16 committee members on the crew from nearby Lyman County towns of Kennebec and Presho, and from as far away as Pierre and Murdo area.
The celebration includes a parade on Main Avenue at 6 p.m. Friday, prior to the massive feast of 125 pounds of lutefisk and close to 500 sheets of lefse at 7 p.m. Desserts such as Norwegian rosettes, fattigman, fruit soup, and krumkake will be served following the main course.
After the dinner, Gordy "Crazy Fingers" Lindquist, a pianist extraordinaire and humorist, of North Dakota's Norsk Hostfest fame, will provide entertainment.
Larson said he got involved with the event because he has Norweignian lineage, something he still feels strongly about. The celebration in Norway dates back to May 17, 1814, when the country's constitution was ratified.
"I also have a Norwegian background. My grandmother was Norwegian and it made me want to bring back some of the Norwegian heritage back to the area," he said.
When asked about why he continues to host this event year after year, Larson referenced a Norwegian saying: "mange mange tusen takk," which means "many many thousand thanks."
"It really is about the countless thank you's from fellow community members and fellow South Dakota residents from around the area," he said.
The celebration was started by Orville and Nila Hall, who were each of Norwegian descent and had owned a restaurant in the small town. Since then, the event has built an ardent following, and has sold out for multiple years in a row, with only 200 tickets available.
"There is a large number of Norwegian descent in the area," said Larson.
According to Larson, countless hours are poured into the event each year by the committee and community members to make it a success.
"This last month before the event, it is almost a part-time job to get everything organized," said Larson.
A fellow board member of the Uffda Crew, Nancy Firstad, and her husband, Dave, offer up their house every year to help prepare food leading up to the event.
"It is always nice seeing everybody in the community get together and work so hard to put on a great event," Nancy Firstad said.
The passion for the Syttende Mai celebration has spread, Larson said, with new and returning faces coming together each year.
"We get people from all over the state of South Dakota, and some from Minneapolis and Nebraska. There were 40 different communities represented at last year's dinner ... It's kind of like other ethnic holidays. Everybody can be a Norwegian for a day by celebrating Syttende Mai (17th of May)."