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Local family plans celebration to mark arrival of Norwegian ancestors to farm 150 years ago

Everything from churches to small towns to family farms are marking major milestones this summer. All because so many pioneers decided to settle here 150 years ago. Now one family south of Fargo is preparing to celebrate that this weekend.

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Bird's-eye view of Solberg farm.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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FARGO — One trip out to the Solberg farm just off Interstate 29 near Fargo and the animal kingdom welcome wagon is out. The Solbergs are preparing to roll out the red carpet for families arriving this weekend for a special 150-year celebration.

They'll be marking the special year of 1870, when the pioneer settlers arrived from Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, to this spot on the Wild Rice River south of Fargo.

"I like the peace and quiet here," Susan Loe, who grew up on the farm, said.

The pioneer family from Norway started from scratch when they arrived.

"I still bake bread by hand, and I think about how they had to bake bread by hand even on the hottest days," said Mara Solberg, who lives on the family farm with her husband, Warren. "I think about all the snow they had to fight to get out, and what if someone got sick?"

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The first settler, Johan Solberg came 150 years ago and is buried on the farm's family cemetery not far from the Wild Rice River.

"This is written in Norwegian. That is how we know he was from Gudbrandsdalen," said Warren Solberg, Johan Solberg's great-grandson, pointing to a headstone.

"It is a little bit daunting knowing it is our responsibility, it lays on us," Warren Solberg said. "I don't feel we own it, I feel like we are caretakers for the next generation."

On Wednesday, Aug. 3, Johan Solberg's great-great-grandson Bjorn and his great-grandson Warren Solberg continue the legacy of keeping his memory alive by keeping the farm alive.

Lee Hoedl has climbed some of the highest mountains in the world, and now the clock is ticking toward yet another peak. This time, the Fargo explorer and adventurer is taking on the challenge after a brutal battle with COVID-19 and the long haul after.

"That is always in the back of my head, keeping the farm in our family," Bjorn Solberg said. "And that is why, with things like flood diversions or the city moving out, there are a lot of unknowns about our past, but about our future, too. So that is why I am glad we can bring people together to celebrate the now, piece together the past and look forward to the future."

Disease took so many children, fire claimed a lot of photos and documents. The hope at this weekend's 150th celebration will be to get some of the puzzle pieces together.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

Contact Email: kwallevand@wday.com
Phone Number: (701) 241-5317
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