King Harald and Queen Sonja have embarked on what’s widely thought to be their last major official tour to the US. They arrived in the Midwest on Wednesday, for a swing through “Norwegian America,” with a few days off in between events. It appeared the locals would be welcoming the royals with open arms, however short the visit may be.
The royals’ schedule was, as usual, planned down to the minute. Decorah, Iowa was among their first stops on Thursday, arriving at Luther College at precisely 11:40am and later having exactly 34 minutes inside Decorah’s famed Vesterheim Museum. They were to arrive at 3:20pm, according to the royal schedule, but would leave town less than an hour later. Museum officials clearly were intent on cramming as much as they could into their allotted time.
The queen would “briefly” dedicate the museum’s new Asbjørnsen Gallery, the royal couple would receive “as a special gift from Vesterheim,” a plate with their portrait circled with rosemaling painted by Norma Wangsness of Decorah. Wangsness, it was noted, is a “Vesterheim Gold Medalist in rosemaling, Norway’s decorative painting, and an accomplished photographic artist.” Then the royals would meet with “honored guests” of the museum. It seemed doubtful the royals would be able to actually view many museum exhibits.
Those outside were told they could “continue to enjoy the free food and entertainment” while the royals spent just over a half-hour inside the museum. “At 3:54pm, the Royal Couple and entourage will leave the museum’s Main Building from the west door and make their way down Mill Street to the Open Air Division for a press conference moderated by Sven Gjeruldsen, Assistant Head of Communications, the Royal Palace,” according to a press release from Vesterheim. The “general public” was “encouraged to stay for this rare exchange, which will make a great photo opportunity for everyone.”
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Meanwhile, the museum said it was “throwing a party” for the king and queen, featuring dancing, music, food “and one of the best opportunities for people to see and hear the Royal Couple.” To ensure an audience for the royals, the museum was encouraging children “to line the streets.” Norwegian flags would be distributed for them to wave.
Festivities were due to begin at 3pm, before the royals arrived, on the streets adjacent to the museum, with cookies and coffee courtesy of Vesterheim volunteers. The Oneota Co-op was to serve samples of food from local producers.
The citizens of Decorah clearly seemed excited about a visit from royalty. From there the royals would move on to St Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Friday. Saturday seemed to be a day off, but on Sunday they’d be at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, followed by a reception hosted by the governor of Minnesota and a dinner hosted by Norway’s ambassador to the US, Wegger Christian Strømmen.
On Monday the king and queen were heading for Duluth before flying to New York on Tuesday. They had Wednesday free before lunch with the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce on Thursday and an art exhibit at Scandinavia House. On Friday they’d visit Ground Zero and the Museum of Modern Art, before meeting other Scandinavian royals at the 100th anniversary dinner for the American Scandinavian Foundation.
The official duties would end on Saturday the 22nd with a visit to the Norwegian Seamens’ Church in New York.
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