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On the Road to Decorah, Iowa

DECORAH, Iowa (KTTC) – Tattoos. Vikings. Beer. Things are getting a little spicy this week at the 53-rd Nordic Fest.

And stirring the pot… Vesterheim. The national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center.

Zach Row-Heyveld is Vesterheim’s exhibition manager. He says humans have been tattooing themselves for 5000 years. Indigenous cultures have a history of tattooing. Vesterheim wants to couch this exhibit within that global tradition.

Award-winning tattoo artist Brock Swenson says, “It’s a way for people to express themselves. For them to be themselves and to be different.

On Saturday, Erica Bessler with Brock’s Valhalla Tattoo, will be doing walk-in tattoos of Norwegian and Scandinavian themes. The flat fee is $60 and you can walk away with a tattoo.

The National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition is on the third floor. Visitors can enjoy this exceptional exhibition of knife making, rosemaling, weaving, woodworking and metalworking by some of the best contemporary American artists.

Outstanding folk artists in the Norwegian tradition are also demonstrating their crafts throughout the campus. Some of the oral traditions are disappearing. For award-winning wood carver, Orrie Jock, it’s a way to carry on the traditions.

Toppling and Goliath is one of the best breweries in the world and it’s in Decorah. Vesterheim partnered with them to develop a special beer called Valkyrie Strike made from a Norwegian yeast strain. On top of that, Brock Swenson created the label art for the bottles.

The fifth thing to see at Vesterheim is the campus. Row-Heyveld says, “There is so much to see and do here. It’s a party celebration. We pull out all the stops and encourage people to come down and see what they have to offer.”

Tom Overlie

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