Video: WE Fest is good to Norway group
When five Norwegians came from Sparbu, Norway to the United States as part of a community choir trip, there was one place they all wanted to hit up.
"Everybody wants to see what WE Fest is like," said Heidi Grosch, a Minnesota native who is now married to one of those Norwegians.
With a relative living in Detroit Lakes, the plan worked out well.
The crew descended upon the SooPass Ranch on Friday evening, not knowing what to expect.
A tad bit of debate, some tight maneuvers and 15 minutes later, they found a parking spot.
"You really have to work hard to be able to park here," said Norwegian Morten Havan, Grosch's husband.
But parking pains were eased considerably for the Norwegians once they got to the WE Fest ticket booth.
As they all thumbed through their American bills to pay for the $80 ticket, an unknown man standing behind them wearing an "All Access" pass nonchalantly said to the group, "How many tickets do you need? I have some for you."
Just like that, the man handed the Norwegians free tickets.
No explanation, just a smile.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" said Rita Berg, in a thick Norwegian accent, wrapping her arms around the stranger and kissing his cheek, adding, "You are so, so, so kind!"
With an unlikely and inexpensive start to their WE Fest experience, the group walked into the concert bowl, where Lynyrd Skynyrd was belting out "Sweet Home Alabama."
"I love this song!" said Per Olav Lie, as he wrapped his arm around his Norwegian fiancé, Bodil Lillemark, and sang along.
The group then made its way to the Old Time Photo Shop, where WE Festers were busy dressing up in old western attire for a snap shot memento.
While picking out their scene and their clothes, the Norwegians made chit-chat with the ladies of the photo shop.
"Want to hear us sing?" said Grosch, as she explained their purpose in being in the U.S.
The group broke out into a six-part harmony, singing various Norwegian and American songs they had performed days earlier.
Everybody in the photo shop stood entranced by the perfect sound of the Norwegians, clapping loudly after the little, impromptu "gig."
After the pictures were taken, workers at the photo shop handed all the Norwegian women roses, telling them that they had been their favorite customers of the whole weekend and they had stuffed extra photos for them in the bag.
"Wow," said Lillemark, "Everybody here is just so nice!"
When Sugarland took the stage, the Norwegians were unfamiliar with the country group's music, except what they heard on the flight over.
"It's very good music," said Lie, dancing around like a typical WE Fester, "I like it very much."
"I see that there are a lot of beautiful people here," said Lillemark.
"Yes," agreed Rita Berg, "But I'm surprised at how everybody dresses -- I think maybe I'm wearing too many clothes!"
Morten Havan found his real WE Fest joy with a vendor selling western boots.
"I only paid $279 for these boots," said Havan, who mentions how expensive things are in Norway, "I got these for almost free!"
Although the Norwegians had a few frothy beverages, they noticed they weren't in the same shape as many of the concert-goers.
"I almost feel like I am outside of the fest looking in," said Berg, "because I think maybe we are the most sober people here."
"It's a good time, though," said the youngest of the group, Lise Havan, adding, "It's really good music and everybody is having a really good time."
In an effort to avoid a big traffic rush, the Norwegians left just before Sugarland wrapped up.
Their plan might have worked too, if they hadn't begun to sing on their way to the car.
Campers stopped what they were doing and gathered around the Norwegians, who were then invited to sit for a while at a campsite.
They sang and laughed a little more into the night with Americans they didn't know.
One camper asked them to sign a lantern ball he lit and set free into the air as a tribute to cancer survivors and victims.
"This makes my tears come," said Berg, "because back in Norway I am a home health care worker, and two of my patients might be gone from cancer when I get back."
So while language, culture and the ocean can often create a barrier between two countries, these Norwegians were brought together with Americans through stronger ties -- human kindness, music, mementos and the possibility of it all being taken away.
"It was good," they all agreed, "We are so glad we came -- we'll never forget it."