top of page

Syttende Mai 

button shade.png



With Westby being 100% Norwegian decent at one time and still with many around the area, it was decided that something needed to be done to celebrate our heritage of the past.

and the Celebration begins.....

There were some young energetic new merchants in town who formed a Promoters Club.  On the eve of April 22, 1969, they called a meeting of all the interested citizens of our fair city to see what could be done to add some interest here. 


There seemed to be a large group of citizens who were interested and that is when the May 17th celebration was born.  With much work to be done, there was a question of who had the time and energy to do some planning for the event.  So, a man by the name of P. N. Rude was nominated and elected.  He accepted the responsibility and right away the committee was formed.


The corporation was known as the Syttende Mai Corp.  The first Syttende Mai celebration was held on May 17, 1969.  The citizens of our city became aware of the fact that Norwegian dress should be the order of the day and everyone started to make or buy outfits which would be attuned to the climate of the celebration. 


With our very appropriate signs at the city limits one can very easily find where the celebration would be.

Special Thanks to the History ALIVE Project for the historical pictures of Syttende Mai over the years.  Click on the Pictures for an enlarged look.


Westby Syttende Mai


  • MAY - First Festival

  • NOVEMBER - Articles of Incorporation signed by Robert C. Zimmerman, Secretary of State. 

    • Promoters included P. N. Rude, D. L. Vosseteig, Mrs. Elmo Gulsvig, & J. R. Weber


    • President - Polly Rude

    • Board Members

      • David Vosseteig​

      • James Weber

      • David Turner

      • Larry Anderson

      • Ella Anderson

      • Marlowe Nelson

      • Margaret Gulsvig


  • FIRST ROYALTY: - selected out of 35 girls

    • Lory Knutson

    • Terrie Tainter

    • Lynn Jaeger

Westby Syttende Mai


  • Beginning of the Flea Market

  • Saturday Night Dance - street was closed for the evening

  • Parade float created - included bales of hay & then a small Stabbur

  • Barrel water fight between local firefighters

  • Tractor Pulls

  • Rosemaling Demonstrations

  • Event goers wore skirts & vests


  • Float added staggered seats for royalty

  • Troll Hunt

  • Carnival

  • Kiddie Parade

  • Arts & Crafts Show

  • Quilt Contest

  • Cycle Derby

  • Fiddlers Contest

  • Camel Rides

  • Kick-off Dance changed to Breakfast Kickoff


  • Float changed to blue circle

  • Event goers started wearing bunads

  • Borgen's Café window baking demonstrations


  • Cow Pie Bingo

  • Kiddie Tractor Pulls

  • Trolls as Float escorts


  • Go-Kart Races

  • Bike Tour

  • 5K Walk/Run

  • Changed Trolls to homemade

Norwegian Blessing

"May da ruts always fit da wheels in your pick-up.

May your ear mufs always keep out da nort wind.

May da sun shine warm on yur lefse.

May da rain fall soft on yur lutefisk.

And until ve meet again,

May da good Lord protect ya from any and all unnecessary uff das."

Westby Syttende Mai
Westby Syttende Mai
Westby Syttende Mai
Evelyn Larson

thank you evelyn!

Evelyn passed away in October, 2019.  Her passion and talents made such an impact on not only our Westby Syttende Mai celebration, but the entire community and area.

We are so thankful to have had Evelyn in our lives and her Nisse are still a very big part of our festival and community and always will be.
Westby Syttende Mai

the Artisan

Evelyn Larson began painting on mirrors and selling them in 1951.  There is one in a showcase at the Snowflake Ski Club building in Timber Coulee. Mirror painting turned into sign painting in 1954, along with lettering trucks and store windows.  There were three barns with a design and lettering, one remains south of town.  The Old Town Ranch with a horse design done in 1958.  From 1956 to 1960 there were 58 trucks and 423 signs lettered by Evelyn's hand.

nisse's story

The American/Norwegian Nisse is the happy go lucky type and not a gloomy gus.  Two of these happy guys graced each sign and still do on the new signs today, repainted but never replaced.  The Nisse was cutout of three quarter inch marine plywood.  Many business places had one or two designed for their store.  Jim Weber's jewelry store had one holding up a rather large diamond.  David Vosseteig's Furniture store had the largest display with two Nisse, a house, tree, two Nisse carrying a sofa and a little dog running along.

The Public Library had the first girl Nisse.  She was scolding the boy Nisse for dropping his books.  Then, Farmers Union had the largest ones ever made.  One 8-foot Nisse carrying a feed sack and a 7-foot one with an oil can.  Eric Leum's store had a flute player.  The Westby Beauty Shop had a boy and girl Nisse.  There were four painted on the wall downstairs at the Westby American Legion.  A large mural painted in what was then Flugstad's Hardware, now Dregne's Scandinavian Gifts, is still there along with more paintings of Nisse on the gift shop cupboard doors, done later.

Since most of this was done in 1969 to the mid 70's the others have all gone by the wayside by this time.  A copyright on the Nisse was applied for and granted in 1969.  There are now several federal copyrights on Ole the Nisse.  With people wanting to send him to their friends and relatives in many states and even overseas a copyright is necessary.


Nisse get lonely too, so Ole found himself a wife.  They have a boy and a girl and a troll they adopted, plus a dog and a cat.  The Trollsons can be seen on the front page of the Westby Times every week.  Being very civic minded they participate and remind everyone of things going on in the community.  Evelyn also liked to paint on canvas, doing wildlife and other scenes.  She also did Rosemaling on wooden plates and design work besides doing the bulletin cover for her church for many years.


We would like to thank Evelyn for her beautiful artistry and for allowing the Nisse to be part of our annual festival!

bottom of page