I always make a point of celebrating Norway’s national day, the 17th of May, here in Los Angeles. This summer I actually had the chance to do the opposite, celebrate USA’s national day in Oslo. Having experienced Norwegian culture on display in Los Angeles, I thought it would be interesting to see what aspects of American culture would be highlighted abroad.
Every year the American Coordinating Council of Norway (ACCN) organizes an Independence Day Celebration in Frognerparken. 2015 was actually the 30th anniversary of the event. The celebration started off with all due pomp and circumstance with Opening Ceremonies where the acting ambassador (since the US has had trouble finding a qualified candidate) had some opening remarks and the Marine Guards from the US Embassy presented the colors.
Then the day proceeded with folks visiting vendor booths and activity areas, browsing a classic American car exhibition, and enjoying American food, all while they were entertained by live entertainment on a big stage in the middle of it all. A Norwegian bluegrass band was on stage first and a rock band continued later with Norwegian cheerleading squads performing in between.
Sonny and Doobie were immediately drawn to the American sports area where baseball and football were featured. We were given gloves and balls for a lesson in how to throw and catch a baseball. We chuckled when the volunteer started to explain since baseball is a sport we’re quite familiar with. She seemed relieved when she didn’t have to explain any more. When the batting cage opened, the kids were quick to get in line. They were a little disappointed, though, since the pitches were very weak and low, and they weren’t able to show off all they could really do.
The American classic car exhibition took up as much space as the rest of the festival. There was an interesting and varied assortment of cars and trucks. We especially enjoyed the ones with unique paint jobs and interesting interior detailing. There was something for everyone to enjoy.
And of course, there is no cultural festival without an abundance of food to choose from. Various American restaurants in Oslo were on hand offering sought after meals—The Nighthawk Diner, Texas BBQ Cafe, Opland Burger & Steak, and Domino’s Pizza were some we saw offering such items as burgers (BBQ Bacon Cheddar and Santa Fe), rib plates, pulled pork, and chili dogs…
We ended up at Domino’s Pizza (which I learned first opened its doors in Norway in August 2014), not the most exciting for us but it had the shortest line. To drink we had none other than American Coca-Cola, and for dessert, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
There was a baked goods booth, too, of course. I thought it funny that they included Norwegian specialities in addition to the bagels, cookies, muffins, and brownies. Apparently, there was a cotton candy stand too, but we missed that. And a watermelon eating contest which happened after we had left.
In addition to indulging in American food favorites and admiring classic cars, folks could discuss politics at the Democrats’ and Republicans’ booths and browse the used book booth for their next English read. And kids could have pony rides and participate in hands-on activities provided by Oslo Children’s Museum. The ACCN made sure to have something of interest for visitors of all ages and nationalities. I’m sure American expatriates and folks interested in American culture were thrilled at all the offerings.
A highlight of the festivities was the raffle ticket sales and drawings. There was an impressive list of prizes, and the sale of raffle tickets was brisk. Grand prizes were 2 sets of round-trip tickets from Oslo to USA. Other prizes included a hotel stay, food and candy (from Heinz, Wrigley, Mars, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola just to name a few), restaurant certificates, vacation tour tickets, and various other gifts and services. For those who wanted to guarantee a win, there was an instant win Lucky Wheel, and this appealed more to Sonny and Doobie. They were thrilled to walk away with Pringles cans and an assortment of American candy (and relieved that they didn’t win Heinz ketchup and BBQ sauce bottles).
It was a fun and relaxing outing to the park, especially since the park was so close to my parents’ home and we could ride our bikes. We had just come from the US a few days earlier so we weren’t as homesick for American culture as many of the people there, but we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And it was a lovely summer day which makes all the difference, too.