Vinterfest celebration set for Saturday in Henning

Photo by Chad Koenen
Sledding will be just one of the activities set for Saturday at the annual Vinterfest celebration in Henning. The event is sponsored by the Leif Erikson Sons of Norway.

The annual Vinterfest celebration, with a focus on the Nordic sport of ice skating will be held at the Henning Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 18 

The event has been held since 2014. All ages are invited to the event with the main feature ice skating plus sledding (skates and sleds will be provided..

Snacks and warm drinks will be provided in the community center. Inside activities will be available in the community center where skaters warm up. There will active games as well as quiet activities. Parents are requested to bring children to register in the Henning Community Center. From there they can move away to the outdoor sledding or skating. There will be opportunity to make smores outside near the rink. In case of inclement weather, Vinterfest will be held on Saturday, Feb. 25

Skates will be available in the warming house after registering. Sleds and toboggans will be used on the hillside. Individuals may want to try out the “kicksled,” which is a popular way of getting about town during the winter in Scandinavia.

The Henning High School Honor Society students and local adults have volunteered to assist in the activities. Volunteers will be on the rink to assist and teach how to ice skate. Some will be on the sled hill to help with sledding and to keep the sleds moving safely. Inside there will be quiet activities including coloring and inside will be indoor soccer and bean bags.

Vinterfest was founded by the late David Simpkins and his wife, Linda Simpkins at their Folden woods. At that time the Nordic sports included mainly cross country skiing, snow shoeing and sledding. David and Linda hosted the event for the first four years. After his untimely death the organization determined to continue the Vinterfest as a legacy of David’s. It was officially named, “The David Simpkins Memorial Vinterfest” and has continued since 2020 in Henning at the ice skating rink.

Leif Erikson of Vining, one of the 400 Sons of Norway organizations located throughout the United States, Canada and Norway, was founded in Vining in 1905 and has met continuously since then. It is an organization of 128 members, mostly from rural areas but others from various locations in the area and throughout the United States who have roots in our rural Minnesota. Sons of Norway membership is about 60,000 total persons interested in “something Nordic.”

Leif Erikson and Sons of Norway is an organization open to all women, men and kids of all ages. While the organization’s focus is the understanding of the history and culture of the Nordic countries—Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. One does not need to be Nordic to join and support that culture in rural Otter Tail County. The group meets monthly to celebrate some aspect of the Nordic culture. Each month a program is presented by someone with a specific interest in one or more of the countries, a video to focus on an aspect of the past, the Vikings, Royalty, heroes in sports, musicians, and the immigrants, some of whom came to this area of Minnesota to homestead. 

Today there are many descendants from the five countries living here. Many, today, have forgotten their ties to the immigrants and what they have done in the New Land and the reasons those immigrants left the hard life in each of those countries.

The community is invited to participate free each month at the Vining Community Center usually on the second Monday of the month at 6:30 on, but in winter on the second Sunday at 2 p.m. The program usually lasts about an hour and refreshments are served. Some months programs may be held at a different venue — so check newspapers or call (218) 282-0332.

The ongoing schedule and programs are set for Sunday, March 19 at 2 p.m. with the program featuring “Fishing in Norway’s Lofoten Islands” by traveler Dick Enstad of Fergus Falls.

The April program will be on Sunday, April 16. These programs will be at the Vining Community Center at 2 p.m.

In May the Sons of Norway host a dinner celebrating Norway’s signing of their Constitution when the country declared independence on the 17th of May in 1814. We celebrate following the customs in Norway with flags and a dinner. We will celebrate with the Community on Sunday, May 21 with dinner at the Folden Lutheran Church, rural Vining. At this event the program will show patterns of Norwegian sweaters by one who knits with models wearing the various sweaters. The program will follow the 11 til 1:30 dinner which will feature a Nordic theme dinner.

Finally in June we celebrate the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Nordic style with a potluck dinner, games, a parade of Nordic flags, music and dancing around the Midsummer Pole on Thursday, June 22, 3:30 until about 7 p.m. Unscheduled at this time there may be informal picnics, travels during the summer along with the Vining Watermelon Day rømmsgrøt booth in August.

On September 11, the fall program resume for evening monthly program on the second Monday at 6:30 p.m. through November at the Vining location, 211 Soule St at the former school, now a History Center and Vining Community Center.

In December the group will top off the year with the annual JUL (Christmas) dinner of lutefisk and meatballs. It is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec 5 in Vining with entertainment.

For more information about programs or membership please contact Co-Presidents Tom or Ann Rasmusson of Battle Lake at (218) 862-5066 or (605) 999-4839 or publicity chair Barbara Olson of Vining at (218) 282-0332.

Most events, programs and dinners are held at the Vining Community Center, one block south of the Bigfoot statue south, off Highway 210. Vining is located between Henning and Battle Lake.