Nordic Fest, a Celebration of Heritage

Nordic Fest 2017 is over, and it is time to take down our themed window display.  For the past few years, I've placed items in the window during the Fest that are meaningful to me. This year, I featured handwork done by grandmother, my mother, and myself.  

While I was growing up in the 70s, Nordic Fest was a time to spend demonstrating with my family.  My grandmother, Grace Rikansrud, could always be found in the high school, decked out in her bunad and demonstrating one of the Norwegian traditional embroidery techniques.  She was an expert embroiderer, and specialized in hardangersøm, svartsøm (blackwork), hvitsøm (whitework), and two-color holbein; creating many intricate tablecoths, runners, wall hangings, and garments, including bunad cuffs and collars. Many of her designs were inspired by or copies of historical embroidery at Vesterheim Museum.  


At the next table would be my aunt, Alphea Iverson, who would travel from Superior, Wisconsin each year to join us in demonstrating embroidery techniques.  My grandfather, Doc Rikansrud, would go out and locate delicacies for us and bring around both morning and afternoon coffee and treats to the demonstrators.

When I wasn't running around the streets in my bunad, I would join my aunt and grandmother (and sisters), demonstrating whatever I was working on that summer -- sometimes hardangersøm, sometimes rya rugmaking, sometimes klostersøm, sometimes miniature wall hangings.  

My mother, Betty Nelson, could be found on the third floor of Vesterheim Museum during the Fest, demonstrating traditional weaving techniques on their floor loom.  During the Fest, she would wear her bunad, so many Decorah and Museum visitors did not see her in the many garments she designed, wove, and wore.   

It's a different feel to the Fest, not seeing my family volunteering in so many ways around Decorah.  — Kate Rattenborg