Tiny towns still celebrate their Old World identities

Spring Grove, Minn.

Population 1,330

Minnesota's first Norwegian settlement (established in 1852) gives ancestry far more than a perfunctory nod.

At the public swimming pool is a tilted Viking-style ship.Velkommen is stenciled onto Main Street flower boxes. In Viking Memorial Park is the Syttende Mai Hus (a log cabin for public gatherings) and statues of Norse explorer Leif Ericson, town founder Mons Fladager and Peter Rosendahl, creator of "Han Ola og Han Per," a long-running newspaper comic strip.

Children in "Norwegian Ridge," as the area is known, attend a four-day summer language camp that also introduces Norwegian weaving, baking, sports and crafts.

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center (507-498-5070, arranges classes for adults, too, in a building with murals depicting life in Norway and a gift shop that sells rosemaling, Nordic sweaters and more.

Bluff Country Artists Gallery (507-498-2787, sells wooden lefse sticks and krumkake rollers for less than $20 and decoratively carved chairs for $2,900. Inside L.J.'s Ye Old Wash & Playhouse (507-498-3902), a funky laundry and resale shop, are carved "Norsky walking sticks," and the Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe (507-498-3796, sells "Lefse Ninja" T-shirts and aprons.

Uffda Fest, Oct. 3-4, marks the arrival of fall colors with a kubb tournament (wooden batons topple wooden blocks on a lawn), quilt sales, Norwegian singing and storytelling. 507-498-5221,

Spring Grove is 20 miles northeast of Decorah, Iowa, population 8,217, home to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. 563-382-9681,

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