While some things didn't quite translate, everyone speaks "cinnamon bun."
Lily Joanna Esther Cecelia Monson-Gimpl is the 4-year-old embodiment of her family's love of Swedish heritage, with grandmas and great-grandmas reflected in her elongated name. But she introduced herself to Sweden's Queen Silvia simply by saying, "My name is Lily Jo."
She presented the queen with flowers as she and King Carl XVI Gustav entered the American Swedish Institute on Thursday afternoon for the first stop of a three-day visit to Minnesota, their first since 2002.
"Lily is the youngest life member of the Swedish Institute," said her bursting-with-pride grandfather, David Monson of North Oaks. "She became a life member when she was 40 hours old, joining her seven cousins."
Lily, the daughter of Rob and Jennifer Monson-Gimpl of Falcon Heights, got some help from grandpa when the bouquet proved rather massive for a 4-year-old to hold for too long as everyone waited for their majesties. "She's right," he said with a surprised look as he hefted the spray of fall-colored blooms. "It is heavy."
Sweden's royalty then toured the new Nelson Cultural Center, with ASI president Bruce Karstadt and architect Tim Carl of the Minneapolis firm HGA explaining the sustainable values that went into its design. Behind them stood the fiberglass goat that Karlstadt installed after enough good-natured jokes about the center's roof of grasses and sedum.
Then it was down the staircase, with its traditional Swedish leather-wrapped handrail, to the craft room where more than a dozen youngsters were constructing en takkrona, or "ceiling crown."
Or close enough, anyway. "There really isn't a good English translation for the word," said Susan Brower, whose son, Julian Brower-Snelson had strung together lengths of straws and leaf shapes then attached them to a small wreath of woven twigs. His efforts merited a brief audience with the king.
"He asked me where I was going to hang it," Julian said. "I told him, 'In my room.'"
Julian's dad, Chad Snelson, is ASI's director of business enterprises, and his mother, Susan, became Minnesota's demographer in February. It's a good bet she already knew that almost one in 10 Minnesotans claim Swedish blood, making the state the most svensk of the 50.
Then it was on to a higher level of art as the royals toured the current exhibit of tapestries by Swedish artist Helena Hernmarck, who flew in from her studio in Connecticut to give her king and queen a personal tour of her stunning weaving. The king reached out to stroke the nubbly tapestry, a privilege not likely granted to mere commoners, and pronounced the work lovely.
Or close enough, anyway. It was difficult to know what was said during the afternoon as many of the conversations were in Swedish: between their majesties and the Swedish media -- there were no interviews granted to U.S. media -- or among the entourage, or among themselves. But everyone kept smiling, which was considered a good sign.
An even better sign were all the plates piled with cinnamon buns in the center's cafe. In Sweden, Thursday was Kanelbullens Dag, or cinnamon bun day, and so it was in Minnesota.
King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia visit Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter on Friday for its 150th anniversary celebration of being founded by Swedes. On Saturday they return to the Twin Cities to help dedicate the center before attending a gala dinner. Most events require tickets, but try for a glimpse of them entering the governor's mansion at 9:30 a.m.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185
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