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Heidi Shaffer, Published May 18 2010

Road crew didn’t get Syttende Mai memo

Planners at the Fargo street department must have forgotten to check their Norwegian calendars before scheduling Monday’s construction project outside the Sons of Norway.

The two-block resurfacing project on Second Avenue North fell on Syttende Mai, Norway’s constitution day and the biggest celebration of the year at the Sons of Norway.

Luckily, the organization was able to call on one of its own to help out.

“I thought I would lose my heritage if I didn’t,” mayor and fellow Norwegian Dennis Walaker said with a laugh.

Walaker arrived at the construction site Monday morning and arranged for crews to leave part of Eighth Street open so patrons attending festivities could still enter the Sons of Norway parking lot north of Second Avenue.

Walaker also asked crews to lay a plywood crosswalk over the fresh asphalt from the parking lot to the building.

Helge Rommesmo, a past president and member of the Sons of Norway for more than 50 years, was thankful Walaker came to help but said he wished the city had realized the importance of the day to Norwegians.

“Nobody thought about the 17th of May,” he said. “Well, they always think of the 17th of March, don’t they? How many Irishmen do you have in town, and how many Norwegians?”

The organization had more than 300 reservations for its Syttende Mai dinner.

Crews had waited to resurface the road until after North Dakota State University students finished classes last week at nearby Richard H. Barry Hall, said Ben Dow, interim director of public works.

Dow said the city received several complaints over the last few weeks about the deteriorating conditions on Second Avenue, and crews took advantage of Monday’s nice weather to repair the roadway.

“But they didn’t understand the importance of the 17th of May to the Norwegians,” Walaker said.

The rest of the construction area on Second Avenue will remain closed until this afternoon, Dow said.

Patrons didn’t seem too bothered by the closed road Monday evening as they arrived for a night of dinner and dancing, but there were plenty of jokes exchanged over the planning of the construction.

“Evidently, whoever decided on that wasn’t Norwegian,” member Steve Halverson said.

“Maybe the Swedes and the Danes planned it,” another member said to his group on the way in.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511