Luther College, Vesterheim to host visit by Norwegian Royal Couple

Sept. 29, 2011

Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway will visit Luther College on Thursday, Oct. 13, in honor of the college's sesquicentennial.

The King and Queen will also tour and take part in ceremonies at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

The eighth time that members of the Norwegian Royal Family have visited Decorah, the Oct. 13 visit will feature a 45-minute ceremony in the Luther Center for Faith and Life. All tickets for the ceremony have been distributed, but the event will be streamed live on the Luther College website at 11:45 a.m., Oct. 13, at and on KDEC/KWLC 1240 AM radio.

Luther College invites the community to come to campus before 11:20 a.m., Oct. 13, to greet the Royal Couple when they arrive. Greeters can gather on the campus green south of the main entrance to the Center for Faith and Life, where the King and Queen will disembark on their arrival.

King Harald and Queen Sonja will be welcomed to Luther by President Richard Torgerson, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Decorah Mayor Don Arendt and other college, museum, and government officials.

The King and Queen will also greet well-wishers about 12:25 p.m. immediately after the ceremony. The Royal Couple will walk to the Bentdahl Commons pergola, located near the Center for Faith and Life and Dahl Centennial Union, where they will meet with a group of Luther students and greet the crowd.

At 1:15 p.m. Luther will host a luncheon in the King and Queen's honor featuring local foods from Northeast Iowa producers.

On-campus parking space is limited. Visitors are asked to arrive early and park in the Library Lot and the Decorah Municipal Swimming Pool Lot, both located in the east side of campus, access from College Drive.

The pedestrian route from the parking lots to the campus green will be marked.

The King and Queen will arrive at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum at approximately 3:20 p.m.

At the museum Their Majesties will meet briefly with representatives of the news media, and Queen Sonja will preside at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Vesterheim’s new Asbjørnsen Gallery.

The King and Queen are visiting Decorah as the first stop on a diplomatic tour of the United States.

This will be Harald's third Luther College visit. He first came to Decorah in 1965 as crown prince. Luther conferred an honorary degree upon the prince on that occasion.

Harald became king in 1991 and with Queen Sonja visited Decorah in 1995, the first time that a reigning queen of Norway had come to the United States.

Norwegian Royal Family visits to Decorah date back to May 1939 when Crown Prince Olav and his wife, Princess Märtha, stayed in Decorah while on their first United States tour, and Luther College conferred an honorary degree upon the crown prince.

After the October 1965 visit by Crown Prince Harald, the next royal visit was in May 1968 when King Olav V toured Luther College and Vesterheim.

In October 1975, King Olav V visited Luther College and laid the cornerstone for the construction of the Center for Faith and Life. He also participated in dedication ceremonies at Vesterheim’s newly restored Main Building.

In November 1987, King Olav V traveled from Minneapolis on icy roads to visit Decorah, again touring Luther College and Vesterheim Museum.

The most recent royal visits have been in October 1995, when Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja toured Decorah as part of their official diplomatic itinerary, and June 1999 when Crown Prince Haakon visited Decorah as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration and dedicated Vesterheim’s Amdal-Odland Heritage Center.

King Harald and Queen Sonja