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Sons of Norway lodge hits goal of No. 1

Fargo's Sons of Norway lodge is now the largest in the nation, with a two-month membership drive bringing in 849 new members. Jim Olson, international Sons of Norway president, initiated 131 of the new members Tuesday night at Fargo's Kringen Lodge.

Fargo's Sons of Norway lodge is now the largest in the nation, with a two-month membership drive bringing in 849 new members.

Jim Olson, international Sons of Norway president, initiated 131 of the new members Tuesday night at Fargo's Kringen Lodge.

With 2,100 members, the Kringen Lodge has surpassed a Seattle Sons of Norway lodge that previously ranked No. 1 with about 1,700 members.

Leaders say people join the fraternal organization to learn about their Norwegian heritage and to meet people.

Kringen President Steve Halverson said members decided a year ago to strive to become the largest lodge.

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During November and December, the Kringen Lodge reduced the yearly membership fee to $5 for new members. Usually the fee is $37, said vice president Julie Flatland.

"Eight hundred new members in a period of two months," said 38-year Kringen Lodge member Carrol Juven. "Unheard of."

In September, the Kringen Lodge had 1,498 members. It was behind only the Leif Erikson Lodge in Seattle, which had 1,696 members at that time.

John Lund, Sons of Norway CEO, said the Seattle lodge may be wincing at being bumped to No. 2, but members likely will respond by recruiting new people.

"I wouldn't count Seattle out," Lund said. "But a little competition can be a good thing."

Janet Fruchtl, the financial secretary for Leif Erikson, said the lodge's membership has stayed at 1,700 for about 10 years.

"We're pretty good about attracting new members all the time," Fruchtl said Tuesday. "The trick is to keep them once they join. It's hard to hang on to a large membership."

The Seattle lodge claimed the No. 1 ranking for about eight or nine years, she said.

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Before that the Minneapolis lodge ranked No. 1 with as many as 3,000 members, Lund said. Today that membership has diminished to about 800.

Halverson said the Fargo lodge's next goal is to get the 849 new members involved.

During the next few months, the Kringen Lodge will host similar initiation events for the remaining new members, Halverson said.

Tuesday's initiation was the largest ever for the Kringen, with about 225 people packed in the meeting room.

Moorhead resident Tammy Sakrismo joined the Kringen Lodge Tuesday because her husband, Stephen, is already a member.

At 42, Sakrismo is younger than the average Sons of Norway member. But the group has activities that appeal to the younger generation, including trips and social events, she said.

"We'll meet people here that will be our friends for a long time," Sakrismo said.

Lila Hazemann, a 68-year-old widow from Moorhead, rejoined the Kringen Lodge Tuesday for the family atmosphere. She also wants to take Norwegian language classes that are offered.

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The evening closed with members singing the national anthems of Norway and the United States.

Sons of Norway has more than 400 lodges in the United States, Canada and Norway with about 60,000 members, Lund said.

It's one of the few fraternal organizations that is increasing in members and financial assets, he said.

"People come for the heritage or the culture, but they stay for the friendships," Lund said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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