Thirteen children linked hands for the Shoemaker dance while their small feet stomped the hardwood floor of the Missoula Sons of Norway lodge as they looped around the floor.
Former Sons of Norway international president Dan Rude led the way.
“You know what shoemakers were called? Cobblers. They worked really hard, so we have to work really hard at this dance,” Rude, who also is a former teacher at Prescott School, told the circle of children.
The Shoemaker dance is one of three folk dances the children learned in the first Norway in Montana day camp sponsored by the Missoula Sons of Norway lodge.
Lisa Mecklenberg Jackson, Sons of Norway youth director, put together the day camp celebrating Norwegian heritage for local children ages 5 to 12.
Campers spent the day learning to carve stone with John Thompson, who carved the horses for A Carousel for Missoula, and learned “rosemaling,” a Norwegian type of painting with scrolls and flowers in muted blues and reds, along with folk dancing and a three-legged race.
“The favorite so far has been stone carving,” Mecklenberg Jackson said, though the folk dancing was only minutes away on the agenda.
A Norwegian family joined by their daughter’s boyfriend also helped with the day camp. Frode Berget, a member of a Norwegian accordion folk band, visited Missoula in 1994 and met Rude and his wife Betty, who have been involved with Sons of Norway since 1972.
He brought his girlfriend, Marianne Olsrud, and her family to visit on their summer trip touring the United States from New Orleans to San Francisco.
“It’s a lot like Norway,” Marianne’s father, Eivind Olsrud, said of the mountains surrounding Missoula. His wife, Elsebrit, along with Marianne and Berget, united with Rude to teach the 13 campers how to dance.
Mecklenberg Jackson beamed from the other side of the room because 13 happy campers were learning about their heritage, which is fast slipping away due to the distance of age and water, she said.
“My grandparents are Norwegian, and my mother and I visited Norway several times,” Mecklenberg Jackson said when asked of her link to the Sons of Norway.
She danced with the campers, tied bright bandannas around legs for the three-legged race and helped serve food consisting of open-faced sandwiches overlaid with various Norwegian cheeses, as well as pink lemonade, and berries and cream for dessert.
Mecklenberg Jackson took over the youth director position last January. Her goal: promote and preserve the Norwegian heritage in Missoula. The day camp is one of many activities the Sons of Norway hosts each month.
“I would like for the community to see us as more than Vikings with a stick,” Rude said.
Krysti Shallenberger is an intern with the Missoulian and a journalism student at the University of Montana. She can be reached at email@example.com.