The 120th annual Deuce of August Icelandic Celebration, Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 1-4, in Mountain, honors the heritage and culture of Icelandic emigrants who settled in this area, said Curtis Olafson, president of the Icelandic Communities Association of Northeast North Dakota, which sponsors the event.
“Every year about this time people ask me, ‘Are you ready for the Deuce?’ ” Olafson said. “I say, ‘No, I’m not, but we will be.’ ”
The event has been recognized by North Dakota’s tourism department as the longest-running ethnic festival in the state, he said.
“And we believe we are safe is laying claim to being the largest Icelandic ethnic event in the U.S.,” he said.
Total attendance is impossible to determine, but “it’s safe to say there are several thousand people in town over several days — and this is a town, on a normal day, of about 75 people,” Olafson said with a chuckle.
“You don’t have to be Icelandic to come out and enjoy this event,” he said.
Lilja Alfredsdottir, Iceland’s Minister of Education, Science and Culture, is the keynote speaker for the Heritage Program at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, in the Mountain Community Center. She is also a member of the Iceland Parliament and, prior to her current appointment, served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade in the government of Iceland.
“Every year we have high-level representatives of Iceland’s government,” Olafson said. “The leadership of the Iceland government knows the welcome mat is always out in Mountain, N.D.”
Iceland’s former president attended in 1999. Olafson said: “Since then, five sitting prime ministers and multiple cabinet ministers and ambassadors to the United States have attended.”
Saturday’s Heritage Program also will feature Joe Parisien, of Belcourt, a Metis elder and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who is a story-teller and master fiddler.
Organizers pack a lot into four days — musical entertainment, ethnic foods, a Friday night fish fry, a car show and a tractor and pickup pulling contest.
The parade, the most heavily attended event, is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3., and follows a pancake and sausage breakfast, from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Mountain Chalet Cafe.
Rosa Thorfinnson, of Mountain, is the parade marshal. Honorary parade marshals, honored posthumously, are Baldur and Sigrun Sigurdson. All longtime area residents, they are being recognized for contributions to the Icelandic communities and preserving Icelandic heritage and culture, Olafson said.
The Storm Wolves Vikings, a group of re-enactors from the Fargo-Moorhead area, will demonstrate Viking battles and encampments from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday east of the community center.
Visitors can trace their Icelandic or other ethnic roots at the Genealogy Center, which “will be staffed by several of the best genealogists you can find, with access to a large database,” he said.
Cathy Josephson, of the East Iceland Emigration Center in Iceland, will give a presentation at 4 p.m. Friday at the Mountain Community Center, outlining how Icelandic emigrants made the journey to settlements in the United State and Canada.
Friday’s evening entertainment features a jam session with area musicians at 7 p.m. on the Main Street stage.
The Front Fenders band will perform at a street dance at 9 p.m. Saturday on the Main Street stage, with a fireworks show after dark.
The North Dakota State Tractor and Pickup Pull, set for 1 p.m. Sunday west of the community center, has been expanded to include 12 more new high-horsepower pullers.
The diversity of entertainment, food and activities “is one of the reasons for the success of our event,” Olafson said.
More food vendors have been invited in response to public input, Olafson said.
“They’re all serving different fare, so there will be a great variety of foods, including genuine Icelandic food,” he said.
Along with several Icelandic dignitaries, about 75 other visitors from Iceland will attend the celebration, which is planned to coincide with another similar cultural event, The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, on Monday in Gimli, Man.
Entertainment for kids includes a pedal tractor pull, inflatable games and storybook time.
Along with his team of area volunteers, Olafson said he is looking forward to another well-attended event.
“The success of our celebration is due to the fact that so many people in our surrounding communities are willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work and make it happen,” he said. “They are very dedicated people and they know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We’re so appreciative of those who pitch in. It’s really a unique thing for a small community.
“It’s really gratifying to be one of the people who’s involved in making all of this happen. It’s very much a community effort,” he said.
For more information, go online to www.thedeuce.org .