Norwegian Culture

The annual Syttende Mai Stoughton festival is the best place to experience Norwegian culture in Wisconsin. If you’re a music lover, you’ll enjoy the Edvard Greig Men’s Chorus and the haunting Hardanger fiddle performances. Like art? There’s plenty to see at the art exhibits and to buy at the arts and crafts fair. Visitors can even see the artists at work when they demonstrate the rosemaling painting techniques and Hardanger embroidery methods. You’ll see acanthus wood carving, eat authentic Norwegian food and even see the heritage dog, chicken and horse breeds that are still popular in Stoughton, WI.

The following events are located at different locations throughout the festival!

Dancer-bunad timerickson-9868February 11, 2018-XL.jpg

Interactive Scandinavian Arts, Crafts, and Music

Meet today’s artisans, crafters, and musicians who are preserving traditional Scandinavian art for the next generation. This event is designed to bring you up close with artists in a setting where you can ask questions and learn more about what they do. You’ll see acanthus carving, Hardanger fiddle playing, weaving, modern knitting, and more.

Coffee and pastries will be for sale at the Chorus Cafe.

A Booster Button is required for entry and may be purchased at the door.

hardanger fiddle players timerickson-9002February 11, 2018-XL.jpg

EdvardGriegChorus-Opera HouseStage_preview.jpg

For over 90 years, Madison’s Edvard Grieg men’s chorus has performed Norwegian, spiritual and secular songs for the public. The choir is named for one of Norway’s most famous concert pianists and composers. Grieg’s Romantic-era music borrowed from Norway’s traditional folk music themes and gave the country a national music identity. Modern listeners know Grieg’s work from television, video games and movie scores. The men’s chorus performs annually at the Syttende Mai festival.

What is a bunad?

 [²bʉːnɑd], plural: bunader/bunadar) is a Norwegian umbrella term encompassing, in its broadest sense, a range of both traditional rural clothes (mostly dating to the 19th and 18th centuries) as well as modern 20th-century folk costumes. They may be elaborate with embroidery or use expensive fabrics such as damask or brocade. In Norway today, bunads are worn by both men and women for special occasions such as confirmations, weddings, and of course on Syttende Mai

P1030269 (002).JPG

Stoughton’s 46th annual bunad style show is an opportunity to see these beautiful costumes including bunad jewelry called “sølje” up close, and hear about how and when it was designed in each region of Norway. More importantly the story of each model’s bunad is told and why it is so cherished and passed down to future generations. 

Norwegian Buhund Dogs
Traveling with the Vikings by land and sea, the Norsk Buhund has been used as a herding and watch dog for over 1,000 years. Stop by and learn more about this energetic and lovable breed!

BUHUND DOGS - BlackandWhite_preview.jpg

The name Buhund is derived from the Norwegian word ‘bu’ which means farm, homestead or mountain hut, where the shepherd lived while looking after his herd in the summer and ‘hund’ which means dog. The Buhund was used as an all-purpose farm and herding dog, as well as a watch dog. The Buhund is still used for their original purpose in Norway and can often be seen on remote farms. The modern Buhund that we see today was developed on the western coastlands of Norway. Learn more about these wonderful animals.

Norsk Jærhøn Chicken
The Norsk Jærhøn is considered the only indigenous breed of domestic chicken in Norway. They are named for the district of Jæren in Rogaland county, in the Stavanger region. They were a principle breed of chicken in Norway until imported foreign breeds became more popular in the nineteenth century. The Jærhøns were selectively bred at a state-controlled facility in Jæren from 1916 to 1973 in order to preserve and further the breed. They have been listed as a “conservation-worthy national breed” by the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute. 

Jaerhorn Chicken_preview.png

There are two recognized color varieties, dark and light. The comb is single and the legs and beak are bright yellow. They weight between 3 and 5 pounds and are prolific layers of large, white eggs. Jærhøns are an active breed and excellent foragers, with a generally friendly and intelligent temperament. They rarely go broody. 

Jærhøns were first imported to the United States in the mid-1990’s by Dr. Bjorn Netland and are uncommonly seen. 


Fjord Horses –

Sunday 9am-4pm, River Bluff Grounds.  The Norwegian Fjord Horse is one of the world's oldest and purest breeds. Come learn about and pet these magnificent horses.

The public is invited to attend the Sunday worship service at Christ Lutheran Church. Listen to the sounds of Norway while the celebrant sings part of the traditional Norwegian liturgy. The Edvard Grieg men’s chorus of Madison will also sing as part of the Sunday celebration. 

The service ends with the singing of one of Norway’s patriotic songs “Ja,Vi Elsker Dette Landet,” or “Yes, we love this land,” also known as “Song for Norway.”

After the service, the church will serve a lunch with meatballs, herring, cucumber salad, red cabbage, Swedish rye bread, fruit salad, rømmegrøt (pudding), rice pudding, kringle (filled pastry), krumkake (waffle cookie), lefse (flatbread), coffee and still more Norwegian goodies.

There is no admission fee, but goodwill donations are welcome. For those visiting for the weekend, it is a great place to relax before the parade.

The Norwegian Heritage Center, also known as Livsreise- Meaning “Life’s Journey,” in downtown Stoughton with its new Scandinavian inspired building, opened its doors in May of 2015. This idea for this center was conceived of and is sponsored by the Edwin and Janet Bryant Foundation of Stoughton.

Its purpose is to tell the Norwegian immigration story between 1825-1910.  The Norwegian Heritage Center includes the following elements:

©The Kubala Washatko Architects Photo

©The Kubala Washatko Architects Photo

  • Interactive map highlighting Norway’s Districts

  • Large Gallery area with 19th century immigrant artifacts, many with ties to local families

  • Interactive electronic story books with personal stories of early local area Norwegian families

  • Photography Exhibit titled “Rocks and Hard Places: Through the Lens of Knudsen.”  Knud Knudsen (1832-1915) was an early studio photographer in Bergen and the first photographer in Norway to travel extensively around the country. Knudsen captured glimpses of everyday life, special occasions, landscapes, and people in his detailed and dramatic black and white images. This exhibit is presented by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, and features 26 large-format photographs enlarged from Knudsen’s original negatives.

  • An auditorium where videos pertaining to the immigrant experience can be viewed. It is also used for live events, such as educational speakers.

  • A Genealogy lab allowing guests to work on their family history. This is linked to the Norwegian –American Genealogical Center in Madison and gives access to their vast data base. Other links such as the Digital Achieves of Norway and immigrant ship information is available to all guests.*

*Note: (This area will be closed over Syttende Mai weekend to allow us to focus on guiding visitors through the building.)

Exhibits are updated and new information is added on a regular basis so once you visit you will want to return!

Artist: Donna M. Olson

Donna Olson of Stoughton will demonstrate the Hardanger style of embroidery, a geometric from of cutwork that originated in the district of Hardanger in southwestern Norway. It is used to decorate the traditional costume or “bunad” and since the late 1800's as decoration for home furnishings. Fabric and threads are white or off-white with color coming from a cloth below. Today the traditional designs are often stitched with added Reticella-style lacing and embellished surface stitches of stars, roses and geometric designs. The use of color is frowned upon by those trying to keep the traditional style alive.

Artist: Sarah Bukrey

Fiber artist Sarah Bukrey will demonstrate the Norwegian art of Krokbragd weaving. 

Krokbragd (pronounced croak- brod) is a Norwegian version of tapestry style, weft-faced weaving. It is a 3-shaft draft that is tighter on one side, with the other having longer floats. The three shafts create a simple repeating shape and the colors used create the bold geometric patterns. The weft is packed in very tightly and makes a dense, heavy fabric that makes a great rug. Historically, Krokbragd were used as wall hangings to help keep a home cozy as well as extra warmth and cushioning for bedding.

Artist:Rodger Hansen


Photo: Museum of Cultural History, Oslo

Artist: Ingris Franses Stark


Artist Ingrid Franses Stark will demonstrate a variety of intricate interwoven designs used by the Norse Vikings on everything from clothing and jewelry to boats and buildings.Ingrid will also demonstrate Norse Viking knot work and how to make the Penannual Brooch and other pins.

Artists: Kate H. & Allen H.

Artist: Sandy Fleming

Artist Sandy Fleming will demonstrate her techniques for making Sami bracelets which she hand-crafts using pewter, reindeer leather, and buttons made from antlers. The Sami people are an indigenous people of northern Europe, inhabiting parts of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Sandy will have many of her handcrafted items on display.

Aiglets & Viking Jewelry

Artist: Gerald Loosehelm


Flat-Plane Wood Carving

Artist: Roger Odalen

Flat-Plane Carving is a Scandinavian style of figure carving in which figures are carved in large, flat planes. Tool marks are left in the carving and very little rounding or sanding is done.

Chevalets & Marquetry

Artist: Don Rorvig

More info coming soon

Viking Weaponry

Artist: Don Rorvig

More info coming soon

Join the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge for a night of bingo, Norwegian style. Food is served at 5 p.m. and again during the bingo break. Players can expect an evening of fun and cash prizes.

Mandt-Lodge timerickson20171202-7392-XL.jpg

The Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge is one of 380 lodges across North America and Norway that belong to the Sons of Norway international fraternal benefit society. The society’s mission is to promote Norwegian heritage, culture and traditions and its worldwide membership is over 58,000 people. Anyone who is interested in Norway, its people and its culture is welcome to join the society, attend meetings or participate in its events.

Over 90 years ago, Stoughton’s Mandt Lodge (#314) was established and it is still an active organization today. The lodge hosts many cultural and community events including rosemaling classes, a Spring Fish Boil and bingo nights, like the one held during the Syttende Mai festival. Visit the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge Facebook page for more group and event information.


A state-wide celebration of Syttende Mai begins at 12 p.m. on Wed. May 15 at the Capitol building in Madison.

Rep. Hebl will read the Wisconsin State Legislature's joint resolution  proclaiming the weekend of May 17, 18, and 19, 2019 to be Syttende Mai Weekend in the state of Wisconsin. All residents of the state are honorary Norwegians for the weekend and are urged to observe Syttende Mai with appropriate celebrations!

After the reading of the Proclamation, our own Norwegian Dancers will perform outdoors at the Capitol. 

Syttende Mai festival goers will want to watch one of the weekend’s traditional Norwegian dance performances from the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers. For over 60 years, the high school dance group has been pleasing audiences with their lively and athletic performances and beautiful bunad costumes. The group has pairs of male and female dancers as well as musicians who play the folk dance music.

Norwegian Dance group membership is limited to Stoughton Area High School students. Many students audition for the limited number of openings each year, but the selection criteria rigorous. Being a part of this group is both an honor and a time commitment, but students who participate often travel across the nation to perform. The Norwegian Dancers’ lively and authentic performances are one of the cultural highlights of the Syttende Mai festival, so be sure to catch them during the three-day event.

Music at the Chorus Public House

This group of musicians play the Hardanger fiddle, Norway’s national instrument. Strung with eight or nine strings instead of a violin’s usual four strings, the richly decorated Hardanger fiddle has a haunting, resonant quality. Film goers might recognize its sound from the movie Fargo’s main theme or from the Lord of the Rings movies’ soundtracks.

Hardanger Fiddling - Fykerud'n Spelemannslag  2017-0520.jpg

In Stoughton, Fykerud’n Spelemannslag keeps this traditional instrument and its melodies alive. The gr oup takes its name from 20th century Norwegian immigrant brothers Lars and Hans Fykerud, who popularized the instrument when they toured the U.S. Before the brothers returned to their homeland, they settled in Stoughton and established the instrument and its music in the Norwegian community. A spelemannslag is the Norwegian term for a group of fiddlers, who usually play and pass down folk music by ear, from one generation to the next.

Fykerud’n Spelemannslag has played at Stoughton’s Syttende Mai since 2009. Group membership is free and open to fiddlers of any experience.

10am - 1pm ∙ Saturday

Rhapsody Arts Center’s Fiddle Club

1:30 - 2:00 ∙ Saturday

Lead by a Hardanger fiddlerer, this Milwaukee-based band plays traditional old-time music from the Upper-Midwest, including Norwegian, Irish, Anglo-American, and French Canadian fiddle tunes, lumberjack songs, Czech and German polkas, and more.

Sample their sound before the festival!

2:30 - 4pm ∙ Saturday