Decorah’s annual Nordic Fest takes over downtown July 28-30 with live music, arts and crafts, a parade, and more. Hotels are still available for the weekend but are filling up fast. Photo: Kathleen Ernst.
All directions point Norse. That’s the tagline for the all-Scandinavian festival held each July in Decorah in the northeast corner of the state. And even if your ancestry doesn’t include a Viking surname, there are plenty of reasons for a day trip or weekend. Here are seven reasons to head to the picturesque town with Nordic roots for this year’s festival, July 28-30.
1. Authentic eats. Order your fill of Norwegian meatballs, kringla (soft buttermilk cookies) and lefse; plus you can learn how to make the tasty potato flatbread. On Saturday morning, there’s an all-you-can-eat pannekake breakfast (aka pancakes).
2. Live entertainment. All sorts of genres perform in town at the free stages. Brush up on Scandinavian waltzes and polkas, American roots, rock, bluegrass, accordion bands and more, including folk dancers accompanied by the Nordic Dancers Orchestra.
3. Arts and crafts. With the Vesterheim—the National Norwegian-American Museum & Folk Art School anchoring the west edge of downtown, you can expect top-notch artisans inside and outside the campus. See live demonstrations of blacksmithing, forging, leatherwork, woodworking, rosemaling, knifemaking, weaving and spinning.
4. Contests and games. There’s a contest here for pretty much any competitor. Active types can rent a canoe and life jacket for $30 to race on the scenic Upper Iowa River; brave eaters can see how much lutefisk they can consume; gym-goers can discover how far they can throw rocks; and tailgaters can show off their bag-throwing prowess.
5. Beer and other beverages. Home to Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock Brewing Co., the town is beloved by beer fans. Take a break from the action at Pulpit Rock’s patio (walkable from downtown) or check out the family-friendly beverage garden at the festival to see what’s on tap.
6. Fun for the kids. Families can go on a hike, play giant Jenga, search for gnomes and ride Troll’s Trolley. Plus, there are art and craft stations, balloon artists, puppet shows and photo ops with Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen.”
7. Viking encampment. We can’t promise Thor or Loki, but you can see other costumed warriors demonstrating their best combat moves.
Find more information, including a schedule of events, here. And in typical Nordic orderly fashion, the town is planning ahead. Mark your calendar (and book a room now) for next year’s event, July 27-29.