Legions of fans delighted at just a sight of King Harald and Queen Sonja.
Standing on the fringes of a crowd watching Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja leave Sunday's church service at Minneapolis' Augsburg College, Arvid and Mildred Hanson craned their necks.
Arvid, 86, leaned hard on a cane he'd carved himself; it looked just like an old handsaw without a blade, and he hoped it might draw some attention. That, or his red cap emblazoned with "Norway." Mildred, 90, carried a Norwegian flag.
Both grew up in households where Norwegian was the first language. They've been to Norway three times, as have their children. But the Minneapolis couple had never seen the king or queen, which in their case would predate the current monarchs.
So on Sunday they came to Augsburg, where they got a glimpse of the visiting royalty.
So did Ingrid Berntsen, an exchange student at Hopkins High School staying with the family of the Hansons' son, Wayne, of Minnetonka. Berntsen, from Oppland, Norway, three hours north of Oslo, had never seen the royal couple.
"I told Ingrid she had to come to Minnesota to see the king," Arvid Hanson said, laughing. "We tell Ingrid she really never left Norway by coming to Minnesota."
As Norway's king and queen near the end of their eight-day visit to Minnesota and Iowa, they may have similar feelings. The refrain that one in five Minnesotans consider themselves Norwegian became reality this past week.
The service at Augsburg's Hoversten Chapel featured a sermon by Anne Løyning, a chaplain for Norwegian students in North America. From the gospel of Jesus healing a leper, Løyning drew a link to events of July 22, when a gunman who objected to the country's growing diversity killed almost 80 in Norway.
"Not belonging is so painful," Løyning said. "Belonging makes us feel safe and gives life meaning and joy."
The leper sought out Jesus because he had heard of his compassion for outsiders. "The leper needed to experience someone with a compassionate heart," she said.
"What's going on?" asked Feba Hauer and Monica Schroeder on Sunday afternoon as they strolled past the Governor's Mansion on St. Paul's Summit Avenue. Told that royalty was about to arrive, Hauer's jaw dropped as she grabbed her phone. "I'm Facebooking this," she said. Asked if either she or Schroeder was Norwegian, she shouted, "Today we are!"
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pausing on the sidewalk, responded to a curious passenger in a car that had pulled over. Informed of what was going on, the passenger realized whom she had asked. "Oh! Hi, Amy!" she said, waving.
"That's the difference between me and royalty," the senator said with a wry look. "With me, it's 'Oh, hi, Amy!'"
Down the sidewalk, Bettine Hermanson bicycled up with her daughter, Ella, almost 5, Norwegian flags in hand. Hermanson grew up in Norway and moved to St. Paul 12 years ago after meeting her husband at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Having only glimpsed the king and queen during Syttende Mai parades in Oslo, she thought the view might improve here.
It did, but barely. Their majesties were whisked into the mansion. "I couldn't see them," Ella said, frowning and wondering why she couldn't go inside.
Fiddlers and galas
The climax of the day was a banquet at the Hilton Minneapolis hotel. The royal couple was preceded into the ballroom by the distinctive harmonics of a Hardanger fiddle played by Andrea Een of St. Olaf College.
The fiddle's nine strings vibrate in such a way "that it creates a halo, or aura, around the sound," Een said. Strict ministers once considered Norway's national instrument a tool of the devil because it led to an irresistible desire to dance, Een said, which led to wanton behavior. According to legend, "some fiddlers would cut off their hands so they wouldn't be tempted to play."
The fiddle set the mood for the 1,100 guests, who had been seated since 7 p.m. and could not leave until the royal couple left at 9:30 p.m., per royal protocol.
King Harald greeted banquet guests by thanking Minnesota, and the nation, for supporting Norway in the wake of the July 22 massacre.
He praised the "welcoming and charming cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul." He noted the shared histories of Norway and Minnesota from early explorers to the modern advances in education and science.
He concluded by saying he was "confident that the special bond of friendship" would remain strong.
A toast was made, "To the king," and the meal began.
The king and queen are set visit Duluth on Monday, then depart Tuesday for New York City.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185