Special visitors from Norway impressed with Spring Grove

Submitted Three visitors from Norway recently had the pleasure of touring Spring Grove. From left to right: Mike Schmidt, Jonathan Storlie, Bill Fried, Bård Ludvig Thorheim, Policitical Adviser to Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide; Jillellyn Storlie and Diane Schmidt. Not pictured is Jon-Åge Øyselbø, Minister Counselor, Norwegian Embassy and Alf-Åge Hansen, Senior Adviser, Department of Foreign Affairs.
By : 
Jordan Gerard

Spring Grove played host to three special visitors from Norway and the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. recently.

Jon-Åge Øyslebø, Minister Counselor, Norwegian Embassy; Bård Thorheim, Political Adviser to Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide; and Alf-Åge Hansen, Senior Adviser, Department of Foreign Affairs scheduled an hour appointment with Giants of the Earth Heritage Center staff but ended up staying in Spring Grove for four hours before leaving for Sioux Falls, S.D.

The three Norwegians were on a tour of the Midwest to find connections with culture, tourism and perhaps business exchanges between Norway and the Midwest.

Thorheim had heard about Giants of the Earth Heritage Center from the Norwegian Consulate General in Minneapolis.

“I was curious to see the place and learn about what they have to offer,” he said. “I also heard about Spring Grove’s strong Norwegian Heritage and history.”

Not only did the group talk to Mike and Diane Schmidt, Jonathan Storlie, Karen and Jim Gray, Bill Fried and Jillellyn Storlie, they also visited RockFilter Distillery and left town with a pizza from Doc’s Blue Moose.

“The visit to Giants of the Earth Heritage Center was interesting and really pleasant,” Thorheim said. “The center contributes to keeping the the Norwegian heritage alive in the U.S.”

He especially liked the genetic testing offered by the center, as many from “the Norwegian-American communities throughout the country would be interested in.”

The visit was enjoyable for all. Hansen also became a member of the heritage center and took a genetic genealogy test. He and Jonathan will communicate by video streaming to discuss the results.

“I immediately felt at home in Spring Grove,” Thorheim said. “I came because my boss Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, wanted people in this area to see that the Norwegian Government takes an interest in this area, that we don’t focus only on the official contacts with people in Washington, D.C.”

He added there are close to five million Americans of Norwegian descent, which is almost as many as the inhabitants of Norway.

“Together they contribute to the many strong bonds that connect our two countries across the Atlantic,” he said.

Thorheim encourages visitors from Norway to visit Spring Grove and to visit RockFilter Distillery.

Øyselbø offered to advertise Giants of the Earth events on the embassy’s Facebook page and website. 

Jillellyn Storlie was happy to welcome the delegation to Spring Grove and hoped it might open up business opportunities.

“These are exactly the things that their trip and visit was about,” she said. “To make better connections with groups already doing what their mission is, such as promoting continuing cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Norway.”

Thorheim suggested a local product might be popular in Norway one day, or a traditional Norwegian aquavit for the American market.

Whatever the future connections may be, the visit showed Spring Grove can welcome and make anyone feel at home.