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Celebrating on the 17th

The annual Syttende Mai celebration out at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village at Concordia Language Villages, celebrates Norway’s Constitution Day, often featuring event-goersin bunads, traditional Norwegian clothing. Submitted Photo

BEMIDJI -- Already home to the self-proclaimed world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade, Bemidji may soon host the world's shortest Syttende Mai parade, too.

In honor of the 200th anniversary of the signing of Norway's constitution, the local Sons of Norway chapter is planning to add a little more to this year's Syttende Mai celebration.

"All of our members know this is a special day, and a special year," said George Olson, the president and cultural director of the Bemidji 500 Lodge of the Sons of Norway.

Each year, the Sons of Norway hosts a Syttende Mai -- the 17th of May -- celebration at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village at Concordia Language Villages, to mark Norway's Constitution Day.

"It's a very important day for Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans in general," Olson said. "Norway closes down for the day and it's one big celebration."

It is similar in activities to that of the Fourth of July in the United States -- except Syttende Mai marks the signing of the country's Constitution in 1814. National celebrations in Norway tend to focus on the children, who join in parades and celebrate with flags and lots of family activities.

Locally, the Bemidji Sons of Norway has long hosted a banquet and program out at Skogfjorden, offering authentic Norwegian foods and treats. Though the celebration does not usually include a parade, Olson said Sons of Norway members may have a very short parade on the Skogfjorden grounds featuring participants wearing bunads, or traditional Norwegian clothing.

"It's a mixture from the very old to the very young," Olson said. "It's a great time for visiting and celebrating an important day."

The event also will include the Norway national anthem and some speaking in Norwegian, though an English translation is also provided.

"We do try to include the language, so it doesn't die out," Olson said. "That is one thing that is getting to be less and less, the number of people who can speak the language. ... We are the Sons of Norway, you should hear some Norwegian."

The Sons of Norway has about 130 members, some of which are "heritage members" under the age of 16 who have benefited from the organization's scholarships to attend Skogfjorden programming.