Marking Norway’s Constitution in Brooklyn

Marchers in the Norwegian-American 17th of May Parade two years ago in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (Photo by Jean Gazis, Creative Commons license)

Marchers in the Norwegian-American 17th of May Parade two years ago in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (Photo by Jean Gazis, Creative Commons license)

On May 20 parade-goers will march up Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to mark the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. The 62nd annual Norwegian-American 17th of May Parade, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports, is a big draw for celebrants, including Americans of Norwegian descent who may have long left the neighborhood. The parade is held on the Sunday closest to May 17, the day Norway’s constitution was signed.

Up until the 1960s, tens of thousands of Norwegian immigrants called Bay Ridge home. A Village Voice article from 2008 noted that Norwegians first started arriving in Bay Ridge late in the 19th century, loving the community’s open countryside and waterfront views, which reminded them of a fjord in the old country. Bay Ridge became known as Little Oslo, and by 1930 there were over 60,000 Norwegians living in the neighborhood, according to the article. Many found work as seaman and shipbuilders on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Parade General Chairwoman Arlene Rutuelo, the owner of Nordic Delicacies, a food market in Bay Ridge, said that the parade is a strong tradition in the area.

“There may not be a lot of us, but we’re proud of our traditions and of the contribution we have made to New York City,” Rutuelo said. “Our message is, ‘Don’t forget about us!’ We believe that all cultures in our city should be celebrated and that we can learn from each other.”

One Comment

  1. What Does This MEAN???

    Excerpt from the book, 1814-2014 Norwegian Constitution. American Inspiration (Red, White and Blue)

    In the Westerns there is frequently a scene in which one of the heroes walks into a bar, prompting a couple of scary-looking men to stand up and say: “You guys ain’t from here, are ya?” From then on our heroes need to let their fist do the talking.

    This scene took place for me personally when, as a young employee at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., I was in meetings in the Midwest. A co-worker and I were on our way to meet some colleagues at a bar, which turned out to have the same name as a truck-stop bar on the outskirts of Minneapolis. This resulted in the cab leaving us in a neighbourhood where it was not a good idea to be late at night.

    As fine Norwegian adventurers, we thought that we might as well drop in for a beer before we left for home. It was then that we heard the famous line from the Western- just as ten tough-looking men rose up from their stools. It was obvious to us that two men in suits didn’t belong there. What we didn’t expect was the answer we stuttered in response in reality proved the opposite, “No, we’re from Norway.”

    Who are these Norwegian Americans? My grandfather’s Brother was one of them. He first settled in the Norwegian District of Brooklyn, in Julekake (Christmas cookie) Avenue. Much was unknown. He was especially anxious about Meeting those he caleled “burned Stavanger boys”, who today are known as African Americans.

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