Last week I attended Nordic Fest. This is Decorah’s largest yearly festival.
Each year over 10000 people come from the surrounding areas to frequent this event. This effectively doubles the population of this small town. Figures estimate 1.5 million visitor shave visited Nordic Fest since 1967. More information can be found here. Nordic fest is a celebration of the Scandinavian culture. Food booths with traditional food line the street. Likewise, people practice crafts and provide demonstrations. Additionally, dancing and singing fills the entire town.
I arrived early afternoon to Nordic Fest. First, I jumped in lie at the Nordic Waffle booth. This was more of a Scandinavian influenced concept compared to some of the more traditional booths. I sampled two waffles, a berries and cream as well as a turkey club sandwich. The waffles were good but the most memorable part of the whole experience was the spicy aioli used to dress the club. I purchased their cookbook and then wandered the streets browsing the other booths.
The next thing I came upon was serving Kjøttboller or Kjøttkaker. The national dish of Norway, this traditional dish is known commonly as Swedish Meatballs – although in this Nordic Meatballs is far more appropriate. I was quite unimpressed with the bread, but the meatballs and sauce were rich and creamy. Afterwards, I visited the krumkake booth. Normally served at Christmas, these cookies – similar to Italian pizzelle – are usually filled with sweet whipped cream. This booth was only selling the cookies and it wasn’t nearly as exciting as the two previous booths.
Later, I sampled the wares of the Lingonberry iskrem booth. When I spoke to the operators, they informed me that they had gone through 10 gallons of ice cream in less than a day. I continued down the street and came upon the lefse booth. This was probably the longest line I waited in. Lefse is similar to a tortilla except it is made mostly with potatoes. They are then dressed with any number of fillings, although the standard in Decorah seems to be brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and butter. I tried one simply for the novelty – I have sampled them before – but other people were on a mission. I saw single purchases of five pieces of lefse – or more – for just one person. Everyone was out to get their yearly fill.
My last stop was at the Skekt svinek jott pa smorebrod brus booth. They were serving pork chops. My little knowledge of Scandinavian culture told me that this should have been served with bread. Smorbrod is usually a small open faced sandwich with various toppings. I’m not sure how authentic this booth was but the pork chop was delicious. I wandered into a beer garden to enjoy my final snack and ordered a local beer. As I sat in the warm sun with a strong breeze pushing across the courtyard, I – along with my pork chop – felt the essence of a perfect summer day.
All in all, it was amazing to see Nordic Fest; everyone was sporting their countries colors as people milled about the streets enjoying the festivities. I checked out some of the more cultural events – demonstrations, art work and creations – and thoroughly enjoyed this little glimpse into the Scandinavian, specifically Norwegian, culture. If you’re in Iowa, or even the driftless region, during Nordic Fest, I’d reccomended making a stop to see on Decorah’s biggest events of the year.