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Julebyen this weekend

A trio of ambassadors will greet and guide visitors this weekend at Knife River's first annual Julebyen (Christmas village.) Pictured are julenissen Mary von Goertz , troll Scott Jasperson, and Paul von Goertz, a gnome. The costumes were designed and made by Knife River residents. Submitted photo.

Norway is closer than you think! This weekend the community of Knife River will be hosting its first annual Julebyen (Christmas village) where music, art, fun and food will usher in the holidays and bring Scandinavia to the North Shore. The two-day event will begin on Saturday.

Since just after Easter, volunteers have been busy planning a full weekend of activities against the backdrop of snow, pines and our beautiful Big Lake.

"In my mind what makes Julebyen a unique holiday event is that as a replication of a Norwegian holiday event, it brings a whole community together to celebrate and share a traditional Christmas," said Paul von Goertz, one of the event's organizers.

Julebyen is a fund raiser for the Knife River Recreation Center, which was badly damaged in the June flooding of 2012. The community rallied, with volunteers donating hundreds of hours of time and effort to making repairs to the center and its grounds. The mecca of activity for a wide variety of organizations and events, re-opening the center after the 500-year storm wasn't optional, and folks came out in earnest to make it happen. A similar spirit has captured Knife River residents and retailers as they've created this Christmas wonderland.

"Julebyen involves all of our village - (the) rec council, church, garden club, merchants and townspeople," von Goertz said. Residents have also been encouraged to participate by decorating their homes; the end result is that "there is a very noticeable presence of the village's strong Norwegian heritage!"

Clearing this week's snowfall has added another task to the event's last minute to-do list, but everything seems to be coming together.

"Today was a day of snow removal and the last electrical work on the huts for vendors," Julebyen chairperson, Carol Ojard Carlson told the Lake County News-Chronicle on Tuesday. The 4x8-foot huts were made over the summer, painted a festive shade of red this fall, and are now festooned with evergreen boughs. "The huts should be warm and protected for vendors to sell their beautiful wares. The fire pits are ready with logs to keep the fire going all day and into the evening to keep Julebyen participants warm," she added.

Eleven vendors including ceramic and glass artist Daniel Paulson, painter Dave Gilsvik, Saddle Rock Pottery, Boreal Stone Works Jewelry by Michelle Ronning will be available also. Ronning said she's participating in Julebyen because she supports the idea of bringing people together.

"It's a cute idea and it's a sweet, intimate way to create community," she said. "It's good for the heart, not just the economy and I'm so thrilled that they're doing this."

Saturday there'll be a tour of three delightfully decorated homes from 10 a.m- 3 p.m. with drivers chauffeuring particpants to and fro, and a fourth stop at Patricia Canelake's studio, where special photos and cards will be sold--all proceeds going to the new Knife River playground.

Hungry? Check out the kaffee bar (apple cider for those who prefer), julepose (sausages), doughnuts, waffles and much more, with meal specials at the nearby restaurants.

After a full day of shopping, socializing and enjoying the treats, how about a candlelight celebration of music at the Knife River Lutheran Church at 5 p.m., or the live nativity on Sunday from 11 a.m- 12 p.m., with storytelling by renowned children's author Lisa Lunge Larson at 1 p.m.? Why not come both days so you don't miss anything.

For a full schedule of events, directions, list of vendors and information about Knife River's first annual Julebyen, visit the website at