MINNEAPOLIS — Queen Sonja of Norway continues her tour of the Twin Cities on Saturday. This time at the Norway House in Ventura Village, a neighborhood in Minneapolis.
She spoke publicly for the first time at the ribbon cutting event on Wednesday.
“Being here feels like home, away from home,” said Queen Sonja, to the crown of people waving Norwegian flags and wearing traditional Norwegian knit sweaters.
The crowd makes up just a sliver of the nearly 900,000 Minnesotans who have ancestral ties to Norway.
“Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians immigrated to the United States with the hope of a better future. Many of them ended up right here in Minneapolis,” said Queen Sonja, to the crowd.
This was the first time for many to meet royalty, including sisters, Claire and Ellen Winderl, who are some of the many Minnesotans with Norwegian lineage.
“It was so cool. We were like a foot away from her,” said Claire.
“Our grandma has cousins in Norway and she’s taken us over to visit and we really wanted to see a once and a lifetime opportunity,” said Ellen.
It was even a first encounter for a native Norwegian.
Sanders Solsvik is an exchange student from Bergen, Norway, studying at UW-Stout right now.
“This is the first time I’ve seen her in person,” said Solsvik, “It was awesome. I was inside as she was walking out here and I was able to say bye to her and she reacted and I was just over ecstatic.”
Queen Sonja toured the new expansion of the Norway House, which will be a community event center. They also revealed a new art sculpture to the Queen that will not stand outside Norway House. It’s a stainless steel pinecone representing the Norwegian Pine tree, commonly found in Minnesota.
Many people honored their heritage by dressing up in traditional bunads. Each knit sweater worn at this event told a different ancestral story.
“Generally, I think they represent different regions of Norway, different areas have different traditional designs,” said Melissa Dangaran, one of the attendees.
Stories and memories from this day will be passed on to the next generation, continuing the strong link between two places halfway across the world from each other.
“When the King visited, my grandfather had an opportunity to show him around, so this is an opportunity for me to visit the Queen many generations later,” said Ken Hall, one of the attendees.
Queen Sonja makes her final stop on Sunday morning to the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis, which is only one of two churches in the country that offers services in Norwegian.
Then the Queen will return home, marking her 4th visit to Minnesota.