Norwegian songs and toasts filled the air and meatballs and fish cakes filled bellies on Saturday night at the Sons of Norway Hall. Lodge members, visiting dignitaries and members of the community gathered to celebrate the Hall's 100th Anniversary.
Fedrelandet #23 is the oldest Sons of Norway Lodge in Alaska, the weekend's celebration was the culmination of several weeks of preparation.
SONS member Sue Paulsen served as Master of Ceremonies for the event with SONS President Jill Williams introducing out of town guests.
The visiting dignitaries included International President Dan Rude, and his wife Betty, International Vice President Marit Kristiansen, and husband Kjell, International Director from District 2 Erlene Stevenson, District 2 President Waldo Bueing, and his wife Jane. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, and his wife Lupita, were also in attendance.
With national anthems sung and colors presented, the attendees were broken into three groups, the loudest to shout a toast lead by Rude. The loudest group earned the privilege of going through the buffet line first. The food included meatballs, fishcakes and several salads and side dishes.
Just as important as the food were the outfits. Many of the attendees wore traditional, and ornately designed bunads, and the crowd was awash in beautiful Norwegian sweaters.
Rude also shared some highlights of the history of the lodge in Petersburg. “You should be very proud of what your forefathers and mothers started here in Petersburg 100 years ago,” he said.
“When this lodge was organized in November of 1911, it was not part of a larger organization. And the requirement to sing in Norwegian was still in force … You had to be a male of at least 20 years old, but not more than 50. You had to be able to support a family. And you had to be in good moral standing. Each of these were requirements to be a member in the Sons of Norway,” he said.
“Our founding fathers were wise enough to know that if the Sons of Norway was going to survive and thrive, they had to be able to change with the times. They made changes that have outgrown the dreams of our original 18 members. … As we move forward, we will continue to make changes that add to the benefits we have had because of our membership,” Rude added.
About 160 attendees joined for dinner with 20 kitchen, serving and technical staff on hand. It was a well-over capacity event for the hall. The program included a raffle, and remarks from folks visiting from out of town.
For a century, the hall has served as a community gathering place for parties, dances, weddings and funerals. Much of that history was described in readings from Paulsen, Cathy Cronlund, Neva Christensen and Heidi Lee.
A history of the Daughters of Norway was presented as well as the Daughters' flag. Joyce Shultz led the crowd in the recantation of a Sailor's Greeting.
“Marking and celebrating an important milestone like a 100th anniversary is a great way to bring a large group together with a common goal. Continuing to grow and share the love of our heritage, community and culture is our mission for the next 100 years. We are proud of the hard work the lodge members over the last 100 years have done to keep the building in good shape for all to use,” said Sally Dwyer.
“We are also pleased with the many members of the lodge who are committed to bring us together to visit, dance, eat, cook, sew, paint, play. These kinds of activities will bind us in friendship and fraternity,” she added.
A print of a watercolor from local artist Tanesa Young of the SONS building went out to each of the SONS' couples or families as they left the event.