A few years ago, when Gary Gandrud was counsul at the Norwegian consulate in Minneapolis, he had an audience with Norway's King Harald.

"I said, 'Come visit us,'" Gandrud said.

He's getting what he had requested next month when King Harald and Queen Sonja embark on an eight-day tour across the state (with a dip into Iowa), where as many as 850,000 residents claim some Norwegian ancestry.

"The Foreign Ministry announced that he wishes to visit us and I asked how serious this was," said Gandrud, who is now consul general. "I was told when his wishes are made known, it will go through."

The visit by the royal couple, from Oct. 11 to 18, will be the king's first visit since 1995, Gandrud said.

"We've got a tremendous relationship with Norway and we're honored that their majesties want to make an official visit," he said.

Their first stop will be at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum there. The college is marking its 150th anniversary, the museum its 130th.

Next stop will be St. Olaf College in Northfield, followed by a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

A church service will be held on Oct. 16 at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, followed by a reception hosted by Gov. Mark Dayton at the governor's residence that will feature Minnesotans who have been honored by the Norwegian government. A royal dinner will be held that evening.

The following day, the Minnesota National Guard will fly the couple to Duluth, where the king will rededicate Enger Park, which his father, King Olaf V, dedicated in 1939.

On the final day of the visit, the couple will unveil an exhibit at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, marking the 100th anniversary of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reaching the South Pole.

The king and queen will then fly to New York City, where they will attend an American-Scandinavian Foundation conference, attended by officials and royalty from all five Nordic countries.

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184