[Day 11 - Tuesday, July 4, 2000]
Peg & Keith Wheeler's Norway trip report, Summer 2000
Continuation of Day 11 - Tuesday, July 4th - Emigration Festival in Stavanger - Gazellen, Parade, Anna of Sand, Pageant & Concert, Cruise on the Gamle Rogaland
We returned to our hotel just in time to freshen up a bit before the start of the Emigration Festival program. Again Ernst and Uncle Sverre met us and we walked around the lake to the other side were the program was about to begin. Here a crowd had gathered at the "Gazellen" for speeches and the laying of a wreath. The Gazellen was a statue of a gazelle on a pedestal (why a gazelle, no one could answer). With a Norwegian inscription on one side and English on the other, it said, "Dedicated to the men and women of Norwegian blood who have contributed to the building of America." A wreath was laid and dedicated amid speeches and costumed participants who were role playing the emigrants of 1825. Horse-drawn carts were loaded with belongings and the parade began. A replica of the "Restoration" (on wheels) joined the procession as it made its way around the lake, past the church and to the wharf beside the customs house where further ceremonies were to take place.
At this point it becomes difficult to remember and record all of the events that ensued, at least in their correct order. During the parade Keith met Nils Olav Østrem, a bygdebok (local history book) author, with whom he had corresponded previously. Nils had written some of books for Tysvær. At the same time he was trying to also stay with the Torkelson group that was growing. Somehow we ended up at the back of the parade and when we got to the bleachers they were already filled to capacity. Large standing crowds had gathered as dignitaries made presentations and music and folk dancing began. It was shortly after the parade that Keith and Ernst were approached by the Stavanger Aftenblad journalist for an interview and pictures. By this time the sloop "Anna of Sand" had sailed up and was tying up. This beautifully restored old boat is believed to be quite similar in type and size to the sloop Restoration that sailed from here so long ago. It is also reputed to be "Europe's oldest vessel afloat, from 1852" (or 1848 according to another source … either way, OLD). As the interview progressed, the Aftenblad's photographer directed Ernst and Keith for quite a series of photographs that included the sloop. This was all a bit overwhelming for Keith. It was important to him to see this celebration that honored his ancestors but he did not expect to be thrust into the celebrity role himself. The next day's paper would have a small color photo of Keith and Ernst on the front page with an article and a 9 x 11 inch black and white photo on page 6. The highlight of all this for Keith was being invited on board the sloop. The captain invited him to go below where Keith was able to get a better idea of how small this vessel would be for the 3 month voyage of 52 people. (Too bad that his "15 minutes of fame" was recorded in Norwegian! For those of you who can read Norwegian, the July 5th Stavanger Aftenblad's article is archived at:
Another related article appeared on August 8th regarding the incorrect flag on the Anna of Sand. While this article did not apply to Keith, there is a nice photo of him and his cousin Ernst there. See:
See our "Newspaper Articles" page for more on these and other articles. English translations now available.)
< Keith coming up on deck of the Anna with journalist Ludvig Lorentzen on left
and the sloop's captain (seated) & mate on right. >
As Keith was still on the sloop a familiar face passed by. With an exclamation, he greeted Mikkel Thompson from San Jose. We had first met Mikkel when he brought his dance group [ http://home.att.net/~williamlikens/ngls/ngls.html#general ] up to the Ferndale Scandinavian Days Festival a couple of years ago. Then we met him, his mother and others of his group in Iowa last year where they were attending and performing at the Bygdelag celebration. Now, he and some of his group were performing at this celebration. Small world. As Keith got off the sloop and was finished with the newspaper people, more of Ernst's family arrived. We were able to meet his daughter Anette, another 5th cousin Arne Maudal, and Uncle Sverre's older brother. About this time another person Keith had corresponded with found us. His name was Lars Nag and, through the process of Lars helping Keith with some translation problems over the Internet, they discovered they had common ancestors dating back to the 1500's and were 11th cousins. There was little time to visit with all this confusion so Lars and Keith agreed to meet later. We also briefly met another Slooper descendant, Matt Rosdail, with whom Keith had corresponded. In an act of futility Keith tried to watch the program performance over the heads of the crowd while maintaining social contact with all the new folks he was meeting.
During this time Peg let herself fade into the background letting Keith have the limelight. Peg couldn't get too close to the performance either but was able to catch bits and pieces of it. The theatrical group that had been playing the role of the Slooper folk since the beginning continued their pageant. They moved from the center of the performance area to dockside next to the Anna of Sand. This enabled Peg and Keith to get a little better view. They enacted the emotional parting of those sailing to America from those who were staying behind. It was all very well done and soon the pioneers were aboard the sloop. With music, singing and waving farewell the sloop left the dock, set sail and headed in the direction of the open sea. As Keith tried to imagine his 4 ancestors sailing from this very area 175 years ago on this long dangerous voyage, tears again came to his eyes.
Shortly after they sailed off, the sound of a steamer's whistle or horn could be heard. The thematic sequence of events called for the symbolic return of some emigrants to their homeland. This was accomplished when the old refurbished Gamle Rogaland steamship arrived in port. Aboard were the actors dressed in 20's (or later) attire.
This was the finale of this part of the program. Now the crowd moved down the wharf a short distance where a stage had been set up for the "People on the Move" concert. This was essentially the same concert that we attended in Aksdal a couple of days previously. Again Hanne Krogh was the star and MC and Tom Russell, Andrew Hardin, Mick O'Brien and the group from Haugesund were the other headliners. For this concert we were ushered onto the "Gamle Rogaland," a fine old restored steam ship moored at the wharf. Built in the 1920's, this coastal steamer provided regular passenger and freight service to the ports of southern Norway for many years. She was in port in Bergen in April 1944 when the munitions explosion we spoke of earlier sank her. She is now used for excursions and special events and is staffed by a dedicated group of volunteers who enjoy seeing an old Norwegian tradition preserved.
< Gamle Rogaland moored in front of the Custom House.
Picture taken the next day; covered stage for the concert is still up on the right. >
From our comfortable perspective in the bow of the ship, we enjoyed the concert. With maybe exceptions of some of the Haugesund group's songs, we had a growing appreciation for the music and performances of these musicians. By this time Keith was in love with Hanne and Keith was accusing Peg of rolling her eyes at Tom. (She denies this - but you check out the photo below.) We were joined here with Ernst, his uncle and his daughter. David Cross, his wife and daughter also joined us along with Matt Rosdail and his cousin. During the concert Tom Russell even dedicated one of his songs to "the Wheelers from California." Were we celebrities or what? Peg went down where they were selling CDs and had Tom sign one of his brochures for her and a CD to be a gift for our friend Rotraud.
As part of the concert program a special award was made. It was presented by Hanne Krogh to a very popular Norwegian TV personality, Erik Bye. This award was made by the Emigration Center and the county of Rogaland to Mr. Bye for his work in strengthening the "cultural and human connections between Norway and those who emigrated." He was then ushered aboard the Rogaland just as Keith was being sent down to buy some more music CDs. Not knowing what was going on, Keith waited at the top of the gangplank with a group of people while this elderly distinguished gentleman came up using a cane. Unwittingly Keith was now part of the welcoming committee bringing Erik Bye on board. They shook each other's hands as if they were old friends and then Keith went down to get the CDs.
At the concert close, the entertainers joined the rest of us celebrities aboard the Gamle Rogaland for a cruise that lasted over 2 hours. With a blast from the whistle we steamed out of the harbor and cruised the large outer fjords. It was spectacular with the play of the light on the buildings, the water, the land and the sky. A jazz band was playing on the fantail and a special vintage of red and white "Cleng Peerson" wines were served. Later shrimp and crab were served.
While appreciating the history and tradition of this steamship voyage, new technology was evident. Once she knew our route and that it went by her summer home, Anette, Ernst's daughter, used her cell phone to call her boyfriend who was onshore with their baby to tell him to come out and wave at us as we steamed by. It was an enjoyable time to enjoy the magnificent scenery and visit with some of the people we had met that day in a more leisurely way. We also had the opportunity to meet new interesting folks and to get a very special photograph for Keith and his Irish music loving son Kent.
< Keith with uilleann pipes player Mick O'Brien.
The cruise ended in the always "early twilight" of the summer evening (after 10 pm) as we all posed for one last photo op with the entertainers on shore. It was an exhausted, windblown, exhilarated couple of old tourists that fell into bed that night.
< And now the star of the show! PEG with friend Tom Russell - Hanne to left of Tom with
Andrew behind her - Mick is on the far left - Haugesund group fiddle player behind Peg. >
As very grateful guests of the Emigration Center we send our thanks to the staff there for their invitation and their cordial hospitality on this memorable and special day.
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