Minot and Skien, Norway, cemented long-standing family ties Wednesday.
Minot city leaders and Jan Terje Olsen with Skien’s city council renewed their sister city relationship with a signing of documents just before the official opening of Norsk Hostfest.
“We are strengthening the bonds between Skien and Minot,” Minot Mayor Chuck Barney said. “They are bonds that have been established through the hard work of many people before me.”
Minot’s relationship with Skien goes back to 1980. Those informal efforts to facilitate an exchange were formalized with the signing of the first sister cities agreement in 1993. Minot and Skien have a shared cultural heritage, ancestral ties and similar size and character.
Olsen called the new agreement a reinforcement and renewal of the relationship. The agreement is important because the United States remains the most important country with which Norway has relations, he said.
“This is our small contribution to that. This means that we are serious about this and we want to cooperate further,” he said.
Documents were signed by representatives of Minot, Ward County, Minot Area Development Corp, Minot State University and Norsk Hostfest, indicating the economic, cultural and educational scope of the agreement. The purpose includes driving business development and supporting tourism in both countries.
Skien is located in Telemark County, which also has representatives at Norsk Hostfest.
Tone Berge Hansen is a county council member who chairs the committee for culture, sports and public health. She hopes to develop relationships while in North Dakota that will lead to stronger cultural ties.
“We have quite a lot of similarities, and we can also learn from each other,” she said.
She and Erik Magnussen, political adviser for the Telemark County Council, visited Bismarck to renew an exchange agreement established under former Gov. Jack Dalrymple with the current governor, Doug Burgum. They made connections with a number of state agencies while there.
Magnussen said an artist exchange between Norway and U.S. midwestern states is offering a chance to share cultures. A Somalian artist from Minnesota is visiting Norway through a cultural exchange, which has been valuable given the Somalia community that exists in Norway as well, Hansen said. Connections also have been made with Minnesota that enable Norwegian and U.S. dancers to experience each other’s art.
Hansen said there is more exchange that can be done with music and the arts. Discussion is occurring regarding bringing Norway artists or an exhibit to Hostfest.
Magnussen said Telemark works through Sons of Norway chapters and the consulate office to begin exchange conversations.
“We have a lot of Norwegian-American institutions that are well connected and are so helpful opening doors,” Magnussen said. Given the strong appreciation for heritage among many Americans with Norwegian ancestors, he added, “It’s a door opener just to be a Norwegian. That’s just a great foundation for cooperation.”
(Photo: Jill Schramm. Jan Terje Olsen of Skien’s city council shakes hands with Minot Mayor Chuck Barney following a signing of documents to cement a sister city relationship.)
Published in the Minot Daily News, Sep 28 2017