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Lefse Friends

Rev. Daniel Bowman, aka the Holly Roller, rolled lefse non-stop during the Hawk Creek Lutheran Church Lefse Ministry Bazaar in Sacred Heart, Minnesota. He successfully connects faith and lefse.

When you make a lefse friend, you make a friend for life.

In the research and writing of Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, I’ve made oodles of lefse friends—and have added to my ever-growing list of lefse friends that started 25 years ago when I wrote The Last Word on Lefse.

This past week or so I’ve renewed lefse friendships and made new lefse friends in Story City, Iowa, and Sacred Heart, Minnesota. I was in each town to speak; sing my lefse song “Keep On Rollin’”; and sell my books, prints, and heirloom lefse rolling pins.

In Story City, I enjoyed getting to know members of a very vibrant Sons of Norway chapter, Kong Svrre. And many of the names of lefse friends from my first trip there 25 years ago were raised, including Merv Tieg, Marian and Ray Skartvedt, Muriel and Marval Melling, and Alice Miller. All have passed on, but some of their descendants were there to say hi. And one lefse maker I interviewed for Keep On Rolling!, Carolyn Yorgensen of Ames, Iowa, was there demonstrating how to roll Hardanger lefse (hard lefse), which Story City is known for.

And then in Sacred Heart, it was wonderful seeing Rev. Dan Bowman (pictured) again, one year after I had first interviewed him for Keep On Rolling! His church, Hawk Ridge Lutheran Church, is known for its Lefse Ministry because Pastor Dan (the “Holy Roller” in Keep On Rolling!) heads up a huge team of volunteers who make thousands of lefse rounds (most rolled by Pastor Dan) for donations and church fundraising. Inside each lefse package is a prayer or an inspirational message written by Pastor Dan. What outreach—irresistible!

I must say that I get a faith injection whenever I am around Pastor Dan. He oozes faith, and I am grateful that he has made a firm connection between faith and lefse. It is this connection that inspired me in writing the lyrics to “Keep On Rollin’”, which includes this repeating line in the chorus: “Keep the faith, oh give thanks, and you’ll be fine.”

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Love Handle

This lefse stick handle, specially made by Minnesota woodturner Dan Larson, feels so right in the hand. You’ll flip over it!

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this story about resourceful folks making their own lefse stick. People who wanted to save money on lefse-making equipment would use the long, thin, wood strip that’s in the sleeve at the bottom of window shades. They’d slide out the strip, bevel off one of the ends, and use the stick for flipping and carrying lefse rounds. I have done this for demonstration purposes in my lefse classes, and it works fine. You could also do the same thing with a yardstick.

You can get by with whatever as a lefse stick. When I first bought my narrow-handled, 2-foot-long lefse sticks for under $5 each, I was satisfied. They did the trick, and I didn’t give them another thought over decades of use.

And then this week I came upon the lefse stick pictured that was made by Dan Larson, a Minnesota woodturner who also made the beautiful lefse rolling pin that is on the cover of Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. Dan puts thought into every piece he makes, and before making his lefse stick, he saw the major shortcoming with lefse sticks: the handle. Most handles are skinny extensions of the lefse stick. They may have a design painted on them, but they don’t feel all that good in the hand, and the handle doesn’t make for easy flipping of rounds.

Dan’s stick is wide and flexible, and the ergonomic handle is large and rounded and smooth and good looking. It feels good—really good—and the calm you draw from it when holding the stick is as good as meditation.

Chances are you’ll only use one lefse stick in your life, so why invest in one that adds comfort and joy to lefse making? The Best Handle Ever Lefse Stick.

 

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Day 4 of Hostfest: 4 P.M. Gary Legwold

During my regular 4 p.m. talk about my books from a stage in the Author’s Corner, I sang “Keep On Rollin'”.

I took a mid-afternoon break from my table in the Author’s Corner at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. I walked over to Copenhagen Hall to have my Hostfest fix of Williams and Ree. They have always been my favorite act here, with their irreverent comedy and good music.

Earlier in the day, I introduced myself to Terry Ree as he walked by my signing table. I had sent Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round to his agent, and he immediately recalled getting the book in the mail. We laughed about their participation in the Lefse Masters Celebrity Competition in 2016 and my interview with Bruce Williams, which is in Keep On Rolling!

After their 2:15 p.m. show, Williams and Ree signed CDs and whatnot in the music store in Copenhagen Hall. I introduced myself to Williams; we had done the interview for the book over the phone. He had not yet seen the book but said he would check with Ree, who had. I signed a copy of “Keep On Rollin’”and gave it to him, laughing that he was under no obligation to work the song into their act.

I had to get back to Helsinki Hall for my little 4 p.m. gig. All of the authors speak about their books at a set time each day, and the times are listed in the Hostfest program just like the big-name entertainers. Cool! I talked about scenes or characters from my books, and I sang two lefse songs from my books: “Keep On Rollin’” and “Iss Called Lefse for a Purpose,” a song about overcoming perfectionism in order to make good lefse.

The first day I sang “Keep On Rollin’”, I butchered it, missing words at page turns, feeling the stage fright, and wondering how a lefse song, of all things, would fly. But each day was better, proving that when you bump up against some bad stuff, you “keep the faith, oh give thanks, and you’ll be fine,” as the lyrics say. And I was heartened when several people returned to the table a day or two after hearing the song and said the tune just stuck with them throughout their day.

That’s ending the Norsk Hostfest on a good note!

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Day 3 of Hostfest: Mollie B Drops By!

Mollie B and Ted Lange, who are the heart of Mollie B and Squeezebox, thrilled me and pleased the audience at Oslo Hall by singing a verse of “Keep On Rollin'”.

So I’m sitting at my table during a slow time on a Friday morning in the Author’s Corner at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. A tall, beautiful woman accompanied by a taller friendly looking fellow stepped up to the table and flashed dazzling smiles.

“Hi, I’m Mollie B.”

Ted Lange also introduced himself.

She has a wonderful voice and plays the keyboard and about eight instruments while performing. He is a dyno accordion player and the leader of the band Sqeezebox. Mollie B and Ted are the heart of the group Mollie B and Squeezebox that was performing twice daily at Oslo Hall at the Hostfest.

Mollie knew Erik Sherburne, who wrote the music to “Keep On Rollin’”. They went to Luther College together, and Erik had told her I would be at the Author’s Corner.

Mollie, Ted, and I talked a bit, and then she asked to see the sheet music for the song. She looked it over and looked at Ted and then back at me.

“Can I take this? Maybe we can work a verse or two into our 3 o’clock show.”

I said sure, and at 3 p.m., I took a seat front and center at Oslo Hall. Mollie B and Squeezbox have an amazing high-energy act, with professional musicianship, an immediate connection to the crowd, voices you want to hear more of, and lotsa polka tunes that get people up and dancing.

They hadn’t played “Keep On Rollin’” by 3:30 and then by 3:45. I had to be back to the Author’s Corner to speak and sing the song myself at 4:00, so I was growing to accept that they would not be able to work the song into their act. Oh, well.

At 3:56, Mollie started talking about Erik and this new lefse song,“Keep On Rollin’”, that is about lefse but also tradition and resiliency. She explained that they just picked up the music and had not performed it before, but here goes!

She sang the tender intro beautifully, and it was thrilling to hear a pro’s treatment of the song. Then she and Squeezebox launched into a very peppy version of the first verse, Mollie singing, playing the keyboard, and trying to turn pages without missing a word. She missed a word or two, but no one knew because she’s a pro who keeps on rolling.

After they finished the lefse song, I made a quick exit to get to my 4:00 gig. At the back of the hall, I turned and gave Mollie B and Ted a smile and a thumbs-up. Mollie B smiled and waved without missing a beat as they played another happy polka.

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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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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.