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'More Norwegian than Norway': 54 visitors from the Old Country tour Poulsbo

From left, driver Ryan McCormick, guide Carrol Juven, Bjor Languik, Thore Fossum, Terje Thon Stenli and Signe Marthe Lauluten walk through Poulsbo during their visit Sept. 17.     - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
From left, driver Ryan McCormick, guide Carrol Juven, Bjor Languik, Thore Fossum, Terje Thon Stenli and Signe Marthe Lauluten walk through Poulsbo during their visit Sept. 17.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

POULSBO — Poulsbo boasts a Scandivanian heritage and takes pride in its Norwegian-themed downtown.

But what would Norwegians think of the town’s take on the old country?

“Poulsbo is more Norwegian than Norway,” Terje Thon Stenli said.

Stenli was part of a tour — with 54 other Norwegians — that stopped into town Tuesday. It was one stop on a tour of various Sons of Norway lodges in the Northwest, including Ballard, Everett and Portland.

Poulsbo offers an added bonus of not only providing a lodge, but also a heavy Norwegian ambiance.

“These people are excited about coming here,” said Carrol Juven, of Juven Tours and Travel, Inc., the Fargo, N.D.-based agency that hosted the tour.

“It’s the highlight of their lives to come to a place like this outside of Norway.”

In fact, at least one person on the tour has had an eye on Poulsbo long before the trip. Back home, Signe Marthe Lauluten watched a special on Norwegian sites in the United States. It featured Poulsbo. She even took photos of the town — while on the TV screen — on her cell phone and showed them to friends and neighbors.

The group also took a drive through the Kitsap Peninsula and stopped in Port Gamble while in the area. But it was Poulsbo that occupied most of their time. Some visitors sang in the Lutheran Church, and others took advantage of the local antique shops. And many were amused to find strong nostalgic connections so far away from home.

“They went to the cemetery, and it’s all names they know,” Juven said.

The visit was capped off with a dinner at the Sons of Norway lodge on Front Street. The menu included chicken braise, green beans, rice, salad and brownies. The visitors stopped in the lodge’s Troll’s Den for a beer.

Many visitors commented on the strong local connection to their homeland, but noted that the Northwest is unique in many ways.

“It’s different than Norway here,” Stenli said. “People are open here, you feel like you are somebody.”

According to the new history book, “Poulsbo,” Ole Stubb is credited as being the first Norwegian settler in Kitsap County, settling at the entrance to Liberty Bay in about 1874. The first wave of Norwegian settlers came in the 1880s, and in 1886 Iver B. Moe applied to the U.S. government for a post office for “Paulsbo.” Poulsbo became a city in 1908 — Moe’s son, Andrew, was the first mayor — and Norwegian was the dominant culture until World War II.

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