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Nordicfest begins Friday

| September 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Nordicfest, Libby¹s annual festival of Scandinavian culture, celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend.

The 20-year mark is a tribute to annual community participation, especially from hundreds of volunteers, toward making Nordicfest the success it is, said current president John Desch.

In 1985, June McMahon, Janie Erickson and Bunnie Watters were the first co-chairs of the Libby Nordicfest board of directors. Marianne Morgan served as treasurer and the board members were Paula (Rohrer) Sandman, Ron Ostrander, Ruth Hamlin, Phyll Minde, Betty Challinor, Barb Spencer, Gunnar Larson and Mary Holter. Hilda and Harold Hatlen were honorary board members and just before the first festival they were crowned Nordicfest¹s first queen and king.

Many of the same activities and participants will be on hand for the 20th annual version of the Scandinavian celebration. There will be plenty of fjord horses, the melodrama is back and so are the Normanden Dancers of Missoula.

This year there will be a few new twists. The outdoor entertainment, long held at the outdoor pavilion along Mineral Avenue, will be held in the food booth area.

And varpa, the Swedish rock throwing, will be helped along by the Willi Torsténi. Family from Sweden visiting cousin Russell Brown of Libby.

³Varpa is not a common game in Sweden,² said Willi in a recent e-mail. ³On the Insel Gotland it is very popular I believe. When people from Gotland comes to the mainland they takes the game with them and because of that we nowadays have some clubs in the rest of Sweden ,too.²

Before the Torsteni¹s decided to come to Montana they did not know anything about Varpa.

³I have visited a Varpaclub to study the games,² he continued. ³They throw varpas of metal but I suppose that you do it in the old way with stones.²

Contestants will be given the opportunity to heave a large rock as far as they can with stiff competition. Men face the daunting task of throwing a 100-pound boulder. Younger men get to handle a 75-pounder while women throw a 50-pound rock.

Nordicfest will feature two popular musical acts as part of its entertainment package. The Ringling 5, a popular group of Montana cowboys who poke fun at everything, especially the modern lifestyle found in the West today, will be performing on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 8:30 p.m. at the Dome Theatre.

Singer-songwriter Brent Moyer is the featured entertainer for Friday, Sept. 10. A Nashville resident, Moyer hails from a country-folk background, is well-known for his songwriting, and has played lead guitar for Lynn Anderson¹s band. He will perform at 8:30 p.m. at the Dome.

And Libby¹s own Kootenai Karacters are brewing their own concoction of hilarity with a locally written melodrama. The melodrama will take the stage Friday, Sept. 10, and Saturday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. with a matineee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, too.

The annual International Fjord Horse Show, organized by the Pacific Northwest Fjord Association, will be held on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 12 noon. Bridal and reining events will be scheduled on Friday. A Fjord Horse Evaluation by the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry was held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Libby.

The Nordicfest bunad parade, a showcase of the various costumes from Scandinavia kicks off the festival at 12:30 p.m. Friday on Mineral Avenue. It ends at the outdoor entertainment, where the various food booths are set up for an early afternoon lunch.

The Nordicfest craft show is one of the largest in the Northwest and attracts quality craftsmen along with thousands of visitors looking for something special.

The Nordicfest parade, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept.11, is one of the longest and most colorful processions to hit a small town in the West. Participants come from as many as six states and two Canadian provinces.

And if that¹s not enough color, try the Kootenai Valley Quilt Guild¹s annual show featuring more than 100 quilts from local craftspeople. The quilt show runs Friday through Sunday of Nordicfest.

Nordicfest also features some outstanding cultural meals. The Knights of Columbus at St. Joseph Catholic Church will be having their annual fish boil on Friday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m. This year, they¹ve added lutefisk to their menu of Alaskan cod.

At the same time, the Church of God Women will be serving Arta Suppa dinner of ham loaf and scalloped potatoes at the Libby VFW Community Hall. Dinner will be served from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

On Saturday morning, the Libby Senior Citizens will be hosting their annual Nordicfest breakfast from 7 a.m. to 12 noon at the Senior Center. Libby¹s Senior Citizens were among the first organizations to launch Nordicfest 20 years ago.

The Elks Lodge will be serving a Swedish meatball dinner from 4-8 p.m. at the Libby Elks Lodge on Saturday.

And on Sunday morning, Sept. 12, St. Joseph Catholic Church is hosting breakfast at the Parish Hall from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.