Høstfest Honors “Father Of Modern Skiing”

The Norwegian man who invented a way for skiiers to keep their feet on their skis was honored in North Dakota.
A ceremony was held to recognize Norwegian-born Sondre Norheim for his life as a skiier and inventor.
It was a life that began in Norway, but ended in anonymity in North Dakota.
Jim Olson reports from near Denbigh.

The steeple of the Norway Lutheran Church poked above the early morning fog as a small group gathered to pay tribute to a man who stood above the crowd in 19th century Norway.

(Rolf Haugen, Minot Sister City Former Manager) 0822 “A very famous guy that was called the ‘father of modern skiing’ and his name is Sondre Norheim, he was very very well known in Norway.”

Rolf Haugen is a retired city official from Skien, Norway. It’s his 25th year coming to Norsk Høstfest. And he says Norheim’s story is a bit tragic, even as a well known skiier in his home country.

(Rolf Haugen, Minot Sister City Former Manager) 0835 “He was poor and he had to emigrate because his family couldn’t live in Norway so they emigrated to the U.S.”

And in the U.S., Norheim lived a normal, immigrant’s life before he died in 1897 at age 72.

(Rolf Haugen, Minot Sister City Former Manager) 0900 “Nobody had heard about him out here.”

Until, in 1966, it was discovered that the Norwegian hero was buried in an unmarked grave in McHenry County, North Dakota. Since then, this corner of the Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery has been dressed up – with US and Norwegian flags, a stone marker, and a pair of ski poles. And thanks for Høstfest founder, the late Chester Reiten, a statue of Norheim was erected in Minot’s Scandinavian Heritage Park. Something that was soon replicated in Norheim’s home county in Norway.

(Rolf Haugen, Minot Sister City Former Manager) 1055 “But the first one was in Minot. And that was Chester Reiten who was a very strong force behind that.”

The ceremony includes music on the traditional Nordic instrument – the lur, before moving inside the little country church for prayers and more music, from local college students, and from a Norwegian woman making her first trip here.

(Trane Strand, Tromsø, Norway) 3005 “It’s so beautiful. And when Joan played the lur, you feel it here. And this history is very important.”

It’s history that is brought back to the forefront each year during Høstfest at a church sitting among the farm fields of McHenry County. Jim Olson, KX News.

Sondre Norheim was in the inaugural class of inductees to the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in 1984.

This year’s Hall of Fame banquet was Tuesday night, honoring local restauranteur Myron Thompson, a famous Minnesota store called Ingebretson’s Nordic Marketplace, and entertainer Daniel O’Donnell.

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