For the first time since it began in 1978, the Norsk Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota, has been canceled, its board of directors announced this week. Like many events, concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation, according to the Williston Herald.

Known as the premiere Scandinavian festival in North America, Norsk Høstfest, which means “Norwegian Fall Festival,” brings 60,000 or more to the fairgrounds in Minot for a several-day celebration of the cultures of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, with American immigrants and many who come in from the homelands.

It was slated for Sept. 30-Oct. 3 this year.

Many come mainly for the food, but the music and other entertainment acts bring non-Norsks, too.

The headliner this year, for Oct. 1, was Jim Gaffigan, popular stand-up comedian, TV star and best-selling author who has performed for Pope Francis in his trip to the United States.

Last year, country stars Charley Pride and Ricky Skaggs led the entertainment.

“The health and safety of guests, volunteers, and performers is our utmost priority,” the board wrote in a news release. “Norsk Høstfest will be back in 2021.”

The decision had to be made now, the board said. “Norsk Høstfest is a year-long effort that depends on early ticket sales and extensive planning that is well underway. Given the current disruption in regular activity, we are unable to fully staff and execute our sales efforts now. We have no answers to what might be the situation in September. In response, we have chosen to follow the path of minimizing risk to all involved.”

“Norsk Høstfest is an international event with attendees, vendors, entertainers, and chefs coming from all corners of the US, Canada, and Scandinavia. It relies on volunteers and visitors from an older-than-average demographic, labeled currently by CDC as a higher risk from COVID-19. Because the event requires the mobilization of volunteers on a year-long basis, the Board of Directors deemed it prudent to cancel the 2020 festival.”

“It is a heartbreaking decision, and we are aware that this will impact our fans, guests, tours, volunteers, entertainers, sponsors, hotels, chefs, international partners, donors, the city of Minot, and the state of North Dakota.”

“For those who have purchased tickets, refunds will be forthcoming. Please keep watching for more news as we navigate our course of action.”

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