– 1903 –
– 2003 –

HISTORY (member contributions):


As reported from:
Birkebeiner Lodge,
Postboks 484, N-2603,
Lillehammer Norwegian-American HISTORY (member contributions):



- 1903 – 2003 -

In June 2003, Gyda Varden #21, the oldest Sons of Norway lodge in North Dakota, proudly observed its 100th birthday! (Click here for LINKS to various references)

                                             History contributed by: Helny OhnstadHelny Ohnstad
On June 22, 1903, a group of men with a strong desire to preserve their Norwegian heritage and culture, and to strengthen the bond of fellowship among them, founded the Varden Lodge. Two and one-half years later, a group of women organized the Gyda Daughters of Norway Lodge, and the two groups operated independently until their 1951 merger under the name “Gyda Varden.” The name
Gyda” honors the 9th century princess who first had a vision of a United Kingdom of Norway, and “Varden” signifies a “beacon.”Together, the two words form the name of a fraternal order which brings immeasurable joy and fellowship among its members, and which has a lasting cultural impact on the community and surrounding area.

In 1968 the Fram Junior Lodge was formed to kindle an interest in Norwegian heritage among the youth. This made the Grand Forks lodge a family-oriented organization. Junior lodge members have repeatedly performed in programs and folk dancing, and have carried out projects to enhance their culture and tradition.

Presumably, the early meetings of the lodge were held in homes and various temporary sites; but later, and continuing for a half-century, the group rented facilities at the Odd Fellows Temple. Always there was a dream of having a home for Gyda Varden. In 1984 this dream became a reality at a cost of $56,000 when the lodge purchased the property at 1401 9th Avenue South in Grand Forks. Through fund-raising projects, lefse baking, and fantastic support of members and the community, the 30” x 60” building was financed in record time. Soon the hall was painted a characteristic Norwegian blue, and the interior was transformed into rosemaled splendor, complete with carpeting and parquet hardwood floor. In 1986 a 14’ x 28’ kitchen was added, and in 1992 another multi-purpose addition completed the debt-free permanent home of Gyda Varden members. On tall flagpoles, the United States, Canadian, and Norwegian flags wave proudly to show a love and devotion to the “homeland,” as well as loyalty and love for the “new world.”Gyda Varden’s membership list includes members from _________ states, ________ provinces, and from Norway.

Through the years, the lodge has engaged in unlimited cultural, social, and charitable activities. The annual Syttende Mai Fest, the Jul Fest, the Leif Erikson Day observance, and the lutefisk dinner have become community traditions; and the søt suppe, rømmegrøt, lapskaus, and lefse have attracted hundreds to lodge functions. Norwegian language classes, rosemaling, wood carving, “Norsk Lese Lag,” Hardanger embroidery, folk dancing, genealogy research, craft classes, ethnic programs, pancake breakfasts, chili suppers, chorus performances, corn feeds, lefse baking, bløt kake demonstrations, bunad making, drill team performances, and pot-luck meals have involved scores of members at the lodge hall. Here, too, faithful volunteers have worked unceasingly to construct and improve facilities and to enjoy life-long friendships.

Each year the lodge has allocated hundreds of dollars to scholarship funds to support young people at Skogfjorden Language Camp, has conducted a sports program to promote health and fellowship, and has repeatedly participated in such community affairs as the Beautification Project for the city, and for Scandinavian receptions at local financial institutions. An award-winning Gyda Varden Hilsen newsletter is circulated monthly, and a blue-ribbon-winning scrapbook records the activities of the group. Each year Gyda Varden members clip dozens of pounds of canceled postage stamps to support Norway’s TUBFRIM project that aids the handicapped. The lodge has also made a commitment to support Nordic Initiative, which is an organization dedicated to maintain a strong Norwegian program at the University of North Dakota. Through the years, lodge members have contributed time and resources toward the upkeep of Honve House, which was a gift from the late Andrew Honve for the use of Norwegian Language students at the University of North Dakota.

Sons of Norway has sponsored many Norwegian groups appearing in concert, and lodge history lists such spectacular events as performances by the Sons of Norway Bjarne Male Chorus, Gyda’s Noronna Chorus’s trip to Norway, as well as a visit to Grand Forks by Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha in 1939. In 1990 members were thrilled at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and to entertain Miss Universe, the charming Mona Grudt from Norway. In 1999 the lodge was honored by a visit with Crown Prince Haakon—exactly sixty years since Crown Prince Olav had appeared here. Within the last two years, Gyda Varden has been host to events in honor of the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, and to our country’s Ambassador to Norway.

In recent years the lodge has developed a friendship with a sister-lodge in Norway, the BIRKEBEINER group from Lillehammer. Within the local lodge a sunshine committee seeks to cheer the sick and bereaved, and each June an impressive service is conducted to honor the memory of departed members.

A devastating blow to Sons of Norway as well as to all residents and establishments of Greater Grand Forks was the Flood of 1997. With financial help from the Sons of Norway Foundation as well as from generous contributions from our sister lodge and many sacrificial gifts from members and friends, the lodge hall within six months was completely refurbished with new floor, new walls, new heating system, new stoves and appliances, air conditioning, and many other necessities. The gratitude of all Gyda Varden members must be repeatedly expressed to the many men and women who spent countless hours to restore the building to its present beautiful condition.

History can record the activities shared by member of Gyda Varden, but of greater significance is the intangible friendship fostered among the group. Gratitude is due to those who organized the lodge and to those who through the years have faithfully sustained its work. May the ideals and purpose of Sons of Norway ever be upheld UNTIL DOVRE FALLS.”


LINKS to various references:

Centennial Activities -- June 25, 2003

1:00 - 5:00 pm - Social gathering at the Lodge

3:00 pm - Tour of Ralph Engelstad Arena

5:00 pm - Social hour & cash bar, Ramada Inn

6:00 pm - Centennial Banquet, Ramada Inn

Menu: Baked Salmon & Pork Loin -- $20.00
Children's Menu: Chicken Strips & French Fries -- 7.50
Dinner followed by entertainment and dancing to the North Valley Accordion Band

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