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An early gift: DL’s Sons of Norway takes organization’s highest award

Bob and Dorothy Hoover (at left), Bonnie Mohs and Joe Merseth proudly display the District 1 and International Lodge of the Year awards that were recently bestowed on Detroit Lakes' own Sons of Norway Vikingland Lodge for its achievements during 2017-18. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

The Sons of Norway, Vikingland Lodge No. 495 has a big anniversary coming up in 2019. But the Detroit Lakes-based lodge got its 50th birthday present a little early this fall, in the form of its international parent organization's most prestigious award: International Lodge of the Year.

"It's the highest award our international organization can bestow," said Vikingland Lodge President Joe Merseth. "I've never heard of any lodge receiving it twice, so we kind of look on this as a once-in-a-lifetime achievement."

Once in a lifetime, indeed: Vikingland was up against 584 other lodges in the United States, Canada and Norway for the honor, which is bestowed annually, but because the Sons of Norway international convention is only held once every two years, the formal announcement is also made biennially, with two recipients for each year: One for large lodges, and one for small lodges.

"A large lodge has more than 100 members, while a small lodge has 100 members or less," explained Dorothy Hoover, who serves as Vikingland Lodge's social director.

"Vikingland Lodge has almost 180 members, including our heritage (under age 16) and ungervenner (age 16-23) members," said Merseth, "so we are considered a large lodge, though our active membership is actually more like 60-70. That's about how many we have at our monthly meetings."

Vikingland Lodge meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., inside Union Central Senior Living, which is located at 307 Lake Ave. in Detroit Lakes. Each meeting features programs that help its members learn more about Norwegian culture, gather with fellow Norwegians and partake in various activities.

"As social director, Dorothy coordinates our programs, and she does a great job," Merseth noted.

Outside of their monthly meetings, Vikingland Lodge members gather for cultural exploration through folk arts like dancing, rosemaling, hardanger embroidery and wood carving, to name a few.

To earn International Lodge of the Year honors, Vikingland Lodge has to submit reports on its annual activities; each activity is assigned a certain amount of points, and the lodge that earns the highest point rating per year receives the award.

A similar award is given at the district level, noted Bob Hoover (Dorothy's husband), who has served as both District 1 president as well as an international director for Sons of Norway in previous years.

"We also won the District 1 Lodge of the Year Award for 2017," he said, adding that this was the sixth time that Vikingland Lodge had earned the achievement at the district level.

Some of the Lodge's achievements for the past year were hosting a Scandinavian Festival in February, and contributing both monetary donations and volunteer hours to other nonprofit organizations within the Detroit Lakes community, including the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, Becker County Food Pantry, Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, United Way of Becker County, Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics and Detroit Lakes Area Let's Go Fishing.

Anyone interested in joining this organization is welcome to attend the meetings. To find out more, please visit the Lodge's website at, or contact Vice President Bonnie Mohs at 218-847-3856.

"Next Tuesday, Oct. 9 is our annual membership dinner and meeting," Mohs said. "It takes place at 6 p.m. in the Trinity Lutheran Church fellowship hall. Tickets are $15 per person, and include the dinner and meeting. You must purchase tickets in advance, but it's open to anyone who is interested in attending."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454