Thirty years ago a few Duluth families came together to bring Norway's national celebration home. On Friday more than 100 people gathered for their Syttende Mai party - the biggest yet.
Flag waving, traditional dress, the national anthem and a parade - it was a scene straight out of Oslo, on an otherwise quiet Duluth street.
"Ja, vi elsker dette landet," the crowd sang in an echo across the Atlantic. ("Yes, we love this country.")
Syttende Mai, meaning May 17, is kind of like Norway's Fourth of July. Kind of. There are hot dogs, ice cream, parades and national pride, but the day celebrates the signing of Norway's constitution in 1814 following its separation from Denmark. (Norway would then be ruled by Sweden until 1905.)
For a few Scandinavians longing for the festivities in 1989, something had to be done.
"We figured it's too bad there's no celebration, so we decided we're going to have to do it on our own," said Johan Bakken, who with his wife, Susanne, were among the five founding families. "Every year a different house among the five hosted, and as time went by, mutual friends of all of these five families joined in."
This year their son, Johan Bakken VIII, took over hosting duties with his wife, Nicole, for the first time. The tradition lives on.
"I was a little freaked out this morning," the younger Bakken admitted, "but everyone brings something. We just had to get the house clean."
Indeed, everyone has a dish assigned to them, be it scrambled eggs or smoked salmon or cold cuts or waffles. And most come bearing drinks as well - beer and aquavit for adults and soda for the children. And though it's not quite in line with tradition, the kids get plenty of candy, too.
"In their mind this is even more fun than Christmas," said Lise Lunge-Larsen, another one of the founders of the yearly celebration. "There's this sense of community and togetherness and ritual, and this sense of safety when they're playing. You capture the feeling of the day with our own twist."
At this event, as in Norway, the focus is on the children. To bring the spirit of Syttende Mai to Duluth, there had to be a parade, no matter how small. In Norway all the schoolchildren march from school to school. On Friday candy was thrown out a car on a two-block march up and down the avenue, with dozens decked out in traditional clothing and waving Norwegian flags.
It couldn't have been just the candy getting the kids excited.
"They've liked it so much they keep coming back - it's a community of belonging," Lunge-Larsen said.
Though the celebration has new hosts, the customs will continue. And maybe someday young Johan Bakken IX, who seemed to be enjoying the festivities, will follow his parents' lead.
"To have the younger generation take it over, that's big, that means we've done something good here," Lunge-Larsen said. "It feels like a living tradition, and maybe one reason why it works so well is everyone is very invested in it."