Parades, smoking barbecue grills, softball, baseball, lemonade (or other cold beverages) and watching fireworks mark the Fourth of July for most Americans. 

That’s as it should be for the United States’ Independence Day. However, for Spring Grove and other Norwegian American communities, there are often two Independence Days. 

Soon, Spring Grove residents will celebrate the signing of the Constitution of Norway, which declared that nation’s independence in 1814.

As a lead-in to the community’s special Syttende Mai supplement, inserted in this week’s Spring Grove Herald, 2016 Grand Parade Marshals David and Rachel Storlie were asked what they enjoy most about the celebration.

“I’ve got great memories of Syttende Mai (literal translation ‘seventeenth of May’) from high school and elementary school... going on the Volksmarch, the rides, the marching band, parades, things like that,” David said. 

A lifelong Spring Grove resident, David has been heavily involved with getting the Ye Olde Opera House entry ready for the Syttende Mai grand parade in more recent years, as well as preparing the Opera House for any number of events associated with the annual celebration. 

“I’d never considered it (serving as parade marshal) as something I’d ever do,” David added. “It’s exciting. One thing that I like about Syttende Mai is, it’s not just a Norwegian celebration, it’s a town celebration. It’s a Spring Grove celebration... it’s our event, and it’s fun, too.”

Rachel is also very involved with Ye Olde Opera House, serves as an organist at Trinity Lutheran Church and ran a home music studio, teaching students to play piano and sing. 

Residents will also recall she was a member of the Spring Grove City Council during the Main Street roadway/infrastructure rebuild. 

An avid fan of the Bluff Country Artists Gallery, Rachel helps out by serving on its board of directors

“My favorite thing about Syttende Mai is that it always seems to be a huge annual homecoming for many families that have a historical or familial background to the area,” she said. 

“It’s exciting to see everybody come together as a community. People line up for the parade, support each other, cheer for each other. And it’s all tied around a common cultural facet that’s something very unique to this part of Minnesota.

“The root of it is Norwegian Independence Day, of course,” Rachel continued. “I think Norwegians are always a little bit surprised and delighted when they hear that Americans celebrate their independence day abroad. But, at the same time, there is a lot of cultural legacy that’s being lost as the older generations die off. Forty or 50 years ago, you could walk down Main Street in Spring Grove and hear people speaking Norwegian. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of the Norwegian Ridge Language Camp this summer.”

“It’s about a cultural tie to one another. Hopefully, that will never be lost,” she said.

Syttende Mai Committee President Amy Gross reported that the Storlies were chosen because of their energetic personalities, commitment and involvement in the community. 

“Little towns like Spring Grove grow because of people like David and Rachel,” she said.

“Although we can only have one grand parade marshal couple each year, Spring Grove is very fortunate to have so many in the community with the same kind of commitment, involvement and drive,” Gross added. 

“Qualities like this keep little towns like Spring Grove alive and doing well with so much to offer - a great place to live and visit.”