Norsk heritage

Children dressed in Norwegian vests and bunads, adults waving flags and a visitor from Norway joined the annual Syttende Mai parade in Minot Saturday.

Saturday marked the 200th anniversary of Constitution Day in Norway. Signed in 1814, the country’s constitution is Europe’s oldest and the world’s second oldest written constitution still in existence today, according to the Norwegian government.

The formation of the constitution was viewed as a strategic move to liberate the country after 400 years of Danish rule. The Constituent Assembly produced one of the most liberal constitutions in the world at the time, according to the website of the Norwegian parliament. Inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Constitution, the Norwegian Constitution was crafted around separation of powers, the safeguarding of civil rights and sovereignty of the people.

Ingrid Hellerud of Vikersund, Norway, observed her country’s celebration of Constitution Day in Minot, where she is visiting her second cousins. This is her fourth trip but the first visit that fell on Syttende Mai.

“It’s very interesting being here,” she said. “I planned my trip to be here for the 17th of May to see how the Norwegians abroad celebrate it.”

Minot’s noon parade of flags in the Scandinavian Heritage park was smaller than she’s used to, with fewer than three dozen marchers. However, she had the chance to sing along in Norwegian as she walked with the group.

“I just watched on the computer the big day in Norway. It’s been beautiful,” she said. “We saw the king and queen in the palace.”

She described a typical Syttende Mai as similar to America’s Fourth of July. A salute is fired early in the morning and people enjoy a good breakfast, she said. The parade that follows features the school children but anyone can choose to participate.

Minot’s parade included about 10 children, which was a treat for organizers. The number of youth was more than the parade has ever had at one time, said Martha Elliott with Minot’s Thor Lodge Sons of Norway. The children were from Velva, Bismarck and Sidney, Mont.

The schools in Norway host programs following the Syttende Mai parades there. Late in the afternoon, people get out their barbecue grills. There are some fireworks, but Norway’s northern latitude means long days so it often is too bright for most people to bother with fireworks, Hellerud said.

Thor Lodge held an evening banquet, program and dance to close out the local Syttende Mai observance.