Peg & Keith's Vacation trip to Iowa, July 1999

Segment B

B. Bygdelag, Day 1.

Next morning, Thursday 29th we were up early , checked out of the motel and drove to Luther College just north of town. There we had breakfast at the college snack bar, registered for the Bygdelag, and got our room at the college dorm. The dorm was an 8 story building with the parking lot in front of the first floor. Our room was on the 4th and on the 8th there was a walkway to the level of the center of the campus. Six rooms shared a common central room and one bathroom with showers. Ours was for women and the men had to walk down the hall a short distance. While not luxurious accommodations, it was adequate, convenient and well air-conditioned.

We arrived back at the convention just in time to catch the bus for the Jacobson farm. This heritage farmstead had been acquired by the Vesterheim Museum of Decorah and had been restored or preserved as an interpretive farm depicting life on the Norwegian-American farm beginning around 1860. It demonstrated how, as the family grew and the farm prospered, rooms and buildings were added in a functional way. The descendants had fewer children and they were all well-educated choosing to engage in other than farming as a way of life resulting in the eventual donation to the museum. We were still acclimating to the heat and this was mid day. Back in our air-conditioned mini bus we were taken back to the campus where we had a lunch in the very large and efficient college cafeteria. 

The afternoon was spent in one of the buildings that had been set aside to help people specifically with their genealogy searches. We were able to search over the Internet on ship departure lists and in the Norwegian 1801 census. We met some interesting people and got some interesting handouts as well as some useful Internet sites, but no major breakthroughs as far as our Norwegian-American heritage. Our family is fortunate in that our ancestors were traced and recorded very well in the Slooper Book. As we left this building devoted to genealogy to walk across campus, we became very aware of cars, vans and trucks pulling in to unload hundreds of tents, sleeping bags and porta-potties. The "Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa" or RAGBRAI was in town for the night. 15,000 participants! 8,000 were cyclists, the rest were support staff. Talk about an exercise in logistics! The bikers were streaming onto the campus in their gleaming sweaty bodies sporting spandex, tight buns and exuding health. Quite a contrast to the 1,020 pasty white and portly Norwegian-Americans. The evening meal at the cafeteria required a 45 minute wait -- still pretty efficient considering this was also the last night of the high school basketball camp held on campus. By dusk, it seemed that every inch of the spacious lawns of Luther College was covered with tents.

The evening program was opened by the beautiful sound of the "Call of the Lur." ( The lur being a 10 ft long horn that historically was utilized to communicate with the summer farms in the high country.) There were two Scandinavian musical groups, but the highlight of the evening were the folk dancers that came from Norway. They were each dressed in distinctly different and authentically regional costumes. Most were middle aged or older and obviously loved to dance. They had been in Iowa for a couple of other events and were having a tough time with the heat. They stayed in Decorah and were involved in the Bygdelag for the entire time. 


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