Celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day with good food and good fun

It was a lovely day for bunad-wearing and festivities at this year’s 17th of May celebration in Phoenix. Despite the typically hot time of year, which generally brings temperatures upwards of 100°F/38°C, the Valley was fortunate enough to enjoy an unprecedented 75°F/24°C on the day of the gathering.

The morning began as representatives of three local organizations came together to get the outdoor park location all decorated and ready for the fun. As in some previous years, the event was sponsored by the Phoenix chapter of Nordmanns-Forbundet/Norwegians Worldwide and two Phoenix-area lodges of Sons of Norway, Desert Fjord of Scottsdale and Overtro Fjell of Mesa. As members and guests showed up in their Syttende Mai best, the festivities got going under cloudy skies – a welcome sight in Phoenix!

We kicked off the morning with our traditional 17th of May parade, just like we do back home in Norway. Flags were waving, bunader flowing, and noise-makers squawking as the crowd marched through the green park to the tune of Norway’s national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker dette landet,” and other Syttende Mai favorites. With it being such an unusually nice day in Phoenix, there were a lot of people and families in the park and we attracted quite the audience of onlookers, clapping along to the music and cheering as we passed.

After the parade, it was time to dig into the food. This year’s potluck produced some lovely foods, both sweet and savory, supplemented of course by an endless supply of hot dogs. While everyone got settled in and fixed their plates, member Per Aannestad led the group in singing a few traditional Norwegian songs fitting for the celebration. Then, as the crowd ate their goodies, the clubs’ speaker for the event, Erik Ringnes, Historian of the Phoenix Chapter of Nordmanns-Forbundet/Norwegians Worldwide, gave the speech for the day or tale for dagen. He highlighted the European turmoil and upheaval at the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) that provided Norway the opportunity to craft an independent constitution. Although freed from Danish rule, Ringnes explained, Norway had to accept a union with Sweden that lasted until 1905.

Once everyone was done eating, the kids headed out to the lawn for some friendly competition and traditional Norse children’s games. We could not forget the sack races, three-legged race, tug-of-war, potato/spoon race, and more! Children and parents alike took part in the games while the rest of the crowd cheered them on. To finish off the day’s fun, the sun came out just in time for some celebratory ice cream. All in all, it was another wonderful Syttende Mai.