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Day 2 of Hostfest: The Power of Touch

Book lovers are drawn to touch the heirloom lefse rolling pins as Jane Legwold, right, explains the whole line of Keep On Rolling! products.


Mary stopped at the table and tenderly touched the cover of Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. That is the common first move by shoppers here in the Author’s Corner at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. For book lovers, it is as if the cover is a touchstone from which they draw strength.

“People still love books, maybe even more now than ever,” said Mary. “I have about 200 books in my e-reader, and each book kinda gets lost in the e-reader. I still love a good book. Each book holds so many memories.”

So true. People leave the Author’s Corner loaded with books, and I don’t see this desire to touch and hold a book diminishing. Good news for authors and readers!

The power of touch is especially telling as people come to the table to touch the heirloom lefse rolling pins I brought to the Hostfest. Oh, how they love to feel the smooth finish and hold the honest weight of the lefse rolling pins turned by Jeff Luedloff and Bob Puetz of the Minnesota Woodturners Association. People love their beauty and are thrilled that they can actually be used for rolling lefse. Several have been sold to folks wanting to give them as a wedding or Christmas present.

Speaking of beauty, the sun is rising on crisp, still, sun-washed-prairie morning as I drive to Minot for Day 3 of the Hostfest!

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Day 1 of Hostfest: Scandimonium!

Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, when not rolling lefse in the Lefse Masters Celebrity Competition at the Norsk Hostfest, do video clips and perform music in “Ricky Nelson Remembered.” They are twins and the sons of singer Ricky Nelson.

An exciting day of the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. The first day is settling into my spot in the Author’s Corner, which is located in Helsinki Hall of the North Dakota State Fairgrounds. A dozen authors are there with their books, including Lauraine Snelling. She is an amazing novelist, friendly and prolific beyond belief. Readers crowd around her several tables of books, and she anchors the Author’s Corner yearly.

I took a break from my table in the mid-afternoon to watch the Lefse Masters Celebrity Competition. Lots of laughs and octopus-shaped lefse that kinda cracked when it was rolled for submission to the judges, who were chosen from the audience gathered at the Lefse Messanine in Stockholm Hall. The winner was Matthew Nelson. Or was it Gunnar Nelson? They are twin bothers and sons of singer Ricky Nelson. They present film clips, videos, and music to celebrate their father’s legacy in “Ricky Nelson Remembered”.  They are regulars at the Hostfest.

And it is always fun to greet old friends from my lefse travels. Alice Redfield from Granrud’s Lefse  in Opheim, Montana, stopped by. Jan Storhoff, a choral singer in the Twin Cities and an editor I used to work with, came to see me sing “Keep On Rollin’” on the little stage area of the Author’s Corner. And John Erickson stopped by three times. Twice I was away from my table, but the third time we connected. He is from Peterson, Minnesota, and knew my dad, Conrad Legwold. He runs the Peterson Museum. That was really a treat to see John and talk about Dad and those early years in Peterson.

On to Day 2!

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Off to the Norsk Hostfest!

Plenty of places to learn to make lefse at the Norsk Hostfest. There is also a Lefse Masters competition, and I will be a judge.

Tomorrow, it’s off Minot, North Dakota, for the 40th annual Norsk Hostfest. I’ll be toting my four books, my Keep On Rolling!-related products, and great expectations in the eight-hour drive from Minneapolis to Minot. This is the largest Scandinavian festival in the U.S., attracting 55,000 to 60,000 people to the North Dakota State Fairgrounds, where the Hostfest takes place.

I remember my first Hostfest in 1993. I had one book to sell then, The Last Word on Lefse. On opening day of the festival, I stacked copies of the book on my eight-foot table in what is now called the Author’s Corner, and I waited. It was morning, and shoppers were excitedly checking out books and products but not buying much. I made a few sales but decided to take a break and leave the table to get coffee.

I returned 20 minutes later to a clutch of shoppers waiting by my table—for me to sign books! I did, and then more buyers came, and more, and more. All day there were lively conversations about lefse and the new book—and steady sales. That continued for the final three days of the festival, and I left the Hostfest exhausted but elated!

The Author’s Corner now has a small stage, and authors are interviewed there throughout the day. My time is 4 p.m. each day. I’ll talk about my new book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, and then end my time by singing the song I co-wrote with Erik Sherburne, “Keep On Rollin’”. This will be the first time I sing my song, so if you go to the Hostfest, stop by and let me know what you think!

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Bundles of Joy

It brought grins when boxes and boxes of books—my books—arrived.

Yah-ba-dah-ba-doo! Not many things are more exciting than when a driver unloads pallets of brown boxes full of great promise in the form of shiny new books—my books!

The initial printing of Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round arrived at Conrad Henry Press, and immediately 150 books (five boxes) went to one distributor, another 74 books were sold in Barnesville, Minnesota, at the rainy Potato Days, and another three boxes are out the door due to individual orders. A fast start, for which I am grateful.

I’m especially grateful for the early reviews from those who have gotten past the first impressions of the covers and the illustrations and the beautiful layout of the book and have started to read the 24 chapters. Two examples:

I’m loving it. Strong, interesting content. Creative. I’m thinking the recipes will be incorporated into Hart Lefsefest 2017! — Roxanne Hart, St. Paul.

Bra gjørt! Well done! The book is a great window into the life of lefse in the USA in 2017! I love all the colorful pictures!  — Rev. Dennis Preston, Brandon, MN.


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Preparing for Judgment Day

Do Not Enter - Lefse Judging In Progress

Margaret Ann Thompson called last week and asked, “What do you know about lefse?”

“Uh, a lot,” I said. I mean, I teach lefse classes and I’ve written two books on lefse: The Last Word on Lefse in 1992 and Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, which was released this week. But Margaret Ann knew that. I had gotten to know her as I researched Keep On Rolling! so she was well aware of my books. Something was up.

“Well, how would you like to be a judge for the National Lefse Cook-off?” Margaret Ann is chair of the cook-off, which will be a big draw at Friday’s Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota. I will be there both Friday and Saturday selling my four books on lefse and lutefisk, illustrations from Keep On Rolling!, heirloom lefse rolling pins, and copies of the musical score “Keep On Rollin’”.

I said I would be glad to serve as one of the three judges. But now, a few days after Margaret Ann’s call, I have second thoughts. This may be an assignment fraught with peril.

First, I’ll be judging lefse? I have trained myself to judge not, especially not anyone’s lefse. I have always thought it best to applaud all efforts to make lefse no matter how well it turned out. So, can I make the gut-wrenching calls required of judges in a National Lefse Cook-off?

Second, I won’t be able to observe the cook-off. Judges are sequestered so that we will only be judging the lefse’s taste and appearance, not who made the rounds. So, I’ll bring a book. I am enjoying Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate.

Third, I’ll have to vote and skedaddle. Margaret Ann says it is not unheard of that non-winners squawk and hunt down judges, demanding answers. Therefore, she says judges make a habit of hightailing it out of Hildebrand Hall, where the cook-off occurs. Good thing I run for exercise.

Oh, what we don’t do for love, the love of lefse! Pray for me, that I have sound judgment and fleet feet.

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How Will Keep On Rolling! Play in Barnesville?

Mashed Potato Wrestling

I am super pumped as I prepare for the street fair at the Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota, which is Friday and Saturday, August 25th and 26th. As I have researched and written Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round for the last year, I have had this festival in mind as the perfect place to launch the book. Barnesville, after all, is one of 13 stops on the Lefse Trail—which is central to the book—because the Potato Days has mashed potato wrestling matches and the National Lefse Cook-off. Well, the book launch is on schedule. Keep On Rolling! arrives a day or two before I drive to Barnesville. Yaba daba dooo!

I go to my fair share of art fairs, and I’ve always envied the artists and artisans. Not long after producing their art, they get feedback at the fairs and find out what people like through sales and comments.

Writers don’t get out much to sell their books in the marketplace. That’s too bad. They don’t observe how potential buyers are drawn to the book in the midst of many other products at the fair. They don’t see how customers pick up a book and leaf through it as they contemplate a purchase. They don’t hear the questions and comments about what customers think the book is about, based on the back cover, table of contents, look and feel of the book, etc. They don’t see the smiles of approval as customers read a passage or study an illustration.

So I’m jacked to jump into the marketplace at Potato Days and see how the covers, illustrations, photos, rosemaling, lefse characters, lefse-wrap recipes, lefse remembrances, original lefse quotes, heirloom rolling pins, and a brand new lefse song that are in Keep On Rolling! play to the Barnesville masses.

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Just What Is the Lefse Trail?

Lefse Trail Map

Michael Stein interviewed me last week for a story he was writing for the Barnesville Record Review. The story, which ran today, featured my newest book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get Around, which I will be selling Friday and Saturday at Barnesville’s Potato Days.

There is a whole chapter on the Potato Days in Keep On Rolling! because Potato Days is a great festival and because of its National Lefse Cook-off. The cook-off has put Barnesville on the Lefse Trail.

During the interview, Michael asked about the Lefse Trail. Is that something I made up?

When I planned the book, one of my goals was to travel to the six largest lefse-making factories and check with the owners to how the lefse market was holding up. I did so and found the factory tours to be fascinating, and the drive to each small town factory to be rewarding and relaxing. My research turned up seven other stops that held the promise of fresh lefse and lefse-related museums or festivals. What could be better in travel?

As I would tell family and friends about these journeys, I would often lead off with “My lefse travels take me to …” or “Today, life on the lefse trail leads me to …” And there is was, the beginning of the Lefse Trail.

May lefse lead you along the Lefse Trail, which covers Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and Oregon.