Early visitors

Come early and stay late. That has been the norm for a growing number of returnees to Hstfest. The annual Scandinavian festival opened its doors today at 7:30 a.m. for a four day run at the State Fair Center.

Each year the festival attracts a number of early visitors. Many of them bring their recreational vehicle accommodations to the fairgrounds, sometimes as early as a day or two before the beginning of the event. That allows for extra time to visit other places in the city, such as Scandinavian Heritage Park on South Broadway.

Several Hstfest-goers could be seen strolling throughout the park in mild temperatures and bright sunshine Tuesday. Attractions there include the Finnish sauna, Swedish dala horse, waterfall, several statues and the often photographed Gol Stav church.

“This is totally amazing. The hours of work that goes into this is just awe inspiring, I think,” said Linda Vickers, Glendive, Mont. “You won’t see this kind of craftsmanship anymore.”

Vickers and her husband, Vance, had just completed a lengthy walk-through of the historic church during the noon hour Tuesday.

“It’s very interesting and well worth coming to see. It is stunning,” said Vance Vickers.

The Vickers first came to Hstfest seven years ago and have been coming back every year since. Both indicated they had no set agenda for Hstfest week but did say they were particularly anxious to see the performing group Alabama that will be on stage in The Great Hall of the Vikings Friday and Saturday night.

“I also enjoy the people, the volunteers and all the people who come,” added Linda Vickers. “Everyone is friendly and it’s a nice experience all the way around.”

Shirley Attree and her daughter, Allison, emerged into the sunshine after spending time inside the Gol Stav church Tuesday. The two women made the trip from Prince Albert, Sask., for Hstfest and were glad to have the extra time to take in Scandinavian Heritage Park.

“Impressive. Very impressive,” said Shirley Attree. “I’ve been at Hstfest twice before but this is my first time at the park.”

“This church is absolutely amazing,” said Allison Attree. “I wanted to bring mom for another visit and we wanted to see Kris Kristofferson in particular. She told me what a good festival you guys throw down here so we wanted to come and see.”

Kris Kristofferson is scheduled to appear in The Great Hall of the Vikings at 1 p.m. today.

A steady flow of visitors wandered through the Scandinavian Heritage Park Tuesday. Manhy stopped to marvel at statues of ski jumper Casper Oimoen, skier Sondre Norheim and explorer Leif Ericson. A visit to the park was an ideal way to get into the Scandinavian mood prior to the main activities of Hstfest.