Monday, January 5, 2015

Nordic Fest Catalyst: A Tribute to Helga Lund Algyer

2015 will bring the 49th Nordic Fest in Decorah, ever closer to that historic 50th year. All that time and all those forever memories created by so many at Nordic Fest mean it's quite overdue that credit be given to the catalyst of this special celebration: Helga Lund Algyer. 

Helga, pictured above, and her husband Durwin were enjoying life in his native Decorah when she noted with interest a July 31, 1966 New York Times article entitled "Back Home in Scandinavian Oregon." The article outlined the non-commercial success of a Scandinavian festival in Junction City, Oregon.

Helga brought the article to her longtime family friend, Mike Dahly, an active member of the Decorah Jaycees. She recommended that he take a closer look on how the idea might fit for Decorah. 

Mike began a dialog with Dr. G. F. Fletchall, organizer of the Junction City festival, primarily via letters and occasionally via a then-expensive long distance phone call. A read of the article, available for purchase from the New York Times archives, reads stunningly similar to the basic tenets of the Nordic Fest. 

Nordic Fest founders credit this wonderful Junction City connection Helga started with ensuring non-commercialism became a core component of how the Decorah event operated. 

In addition to being the catalyst for Nordic Fest, Helga's long legacy of creative impact includes being a leading actress noted for her Ibsen plays in her native Seattle, writing daytime serials for CBS, NBC and WOR during New York's radio "Golden Age," and writing a novelized version of Blondie and Dagwood for United Features Syndicate. 

During her time in Decorah, her additional impact included serving as vice president for creative events with Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, as well as co-founding the Museum's volunteer program. Early Nordic Fest guests like Peggy Wood and Celeste Holm came in part because "Helga knew everyone." 

Although Helga left this life at the young age of 97 in 2004, the impact she had in serving as the catalyst for Nordic Fest, as well as many other areas, remains stunning. 

Thank you, Helga, for recognizing an idea worth sharing and leaving a forever impact on Decorah! 

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