Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 2016

Gleðilegt sumar – Happy summer

21st of April was The First Day of Summer – Sumardagurinn Fyrsti in Iceland.  It is a public holiday with festivities all around the island.  Iceland has sixteen public holidays.  The next one is Fishermen’s Day – Sjómannadagurinn, on the 5th of June. It is celebrated every year and always on the first Sunday of June.  The Icelandic Association of Chicago has not been celebrating these holidays but that is something to think about!  Our next festival is Iceland’s Independence Day, 17th of June, which we will celebrate on the 11th at Jóhann Friðriksson‘s house in LaGrange Highlands.  Jóhann is one of IAC‘s newest members and graceously offered up his house for our picnic.  My in-laws imported the Icelandic Hot Dogs so we are all set. More info in the newsletter but I hope you can make it.

2016 started out with a bang for IAC.  We had a sold out Þorrablót the 19th of March at the Swedish American Museum, 130 attendees with our Ambassador Geir Haarde and his wife Inga Jóna Þórðardóttir as guests of honor. This was the second year we invited a chef from Iceland and this time he happened to be my brother in-law, Ari Hallgrímsson, who brought his wife Rut, and son Hallgrímur. They did a fantastic job.  So did our musician, Hemmi, who rocked the house  once again and led the Valkyrju and Viking choirs in a sing off.  Everyone was happy, and what a great time.  We have pictures on our webpage.

I also would like to share with you that I have been working with lawyers at Mayer Brown on a Nonprofit Status for IAC.  This is a pro bono work on their behalf thanks to our Secretary Haukur Guðmundsson who set this up even though he can not be directly involved as it would be a conflict of interest.  What this means for IAC is that any payments or donations can be considered charitable.  It will take about six months to finalize our status but it will be retroactive 22 months so any monetary contribution you make to IAC this year could be tax deductible.  This is very exciting and I am sure it will help our organization to prosper for years to come and be a boost for the Scholarship Fund.

Enjoy the summer of 2016 and I hope to see you at many of our events.

Einar Steinsson

From the Editor

This May Newsletter features articles on the amazing Thorrablot (even though I didn't win the trip to Iceland) and the INL meeting in Vancouver written by John Hofteig. It also contains information on upcoming events such as the 17da juni celebration, the Greater Icelandic Open and Midsommar Nott in Vasa Park.  I also included some information on the Viking ship sailing from Norway to Chicago. The ship will be on exhibit at Navy Pier for anyone interested in seeing this beautiful vessel.

The newsletter has once again received a facelift, this time to make it look more like the website. We hope you like the new look. The newsletter should be easy to view with different browsers, cell phone operating systems and iPads. If the newsletter does not open or read well on your device please let me know what type of device or browser you use.

Enjoy your summer. I am sure I will see many of you at O'Hare either departing for Iceland on a direct flight or picking up visitors from Iceland!

Kolla Kristjansdottir Fass

Hæ hó jibbíjei og jíbbíajei...  Sautjándi júní – Iceland’s Independence Day around the corner…" – Icelandic hot dog picnic!

We’re excited to welcome all IAC members in good standing and their guests to a ‘17di júní’ pylsupartý on Saturday June 11th at 2 PM.  This year we’ll enjoy the hospitality of Jóhann (Joe) Friðrikson and his family who genorously offered their house and garden for our annual hot dog picnic.   IAC treats everyone to Icelandic hot dogs (pylsa), Icelandic style, or as we say it ‘eina með öllu’, which for an Icelander means ketchup, SS Pylsusinnep (mustard), raw and dried fried onion, and remoulade! What makes Icelandic hot dogs unique and oh so good, is that they’re made from lamb meat. Please note that other than the hot dogs, the event is a BYO, so please bring drinks, sides, salads, sweets, or other plates you'd like to eat or share.  We’ll give you the exact address when you sign up but so you have an idea, Joe and Luann live in La Grange Highlands, conveniently close to I-55.  They have plenty of parking, a huge garden, cabana, a hot tub and a swimming pool so please feel free to bring your swimsuit and towel.  For the younger generation and the kid in all of us, they have plenty of activities and games.

Please sign up with Lena by June 6th at or call 773-489-4621.

We look forward to see you on the 11th.

If you’ve yet to renew your membership or are a new member, please do through our webpage

Thorrablot (Þorrablót) 2016

The Icelandic Association of Chicago held its annual Þorrablót March 19th at the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville.  Traditionally we celebrate Þorri in February but this year we wanted to take advantage of the direct flight and booked the musician and chef on the first Icelandair plane to land in our city in 30 years.  People and Thorrafood arrived safely and we were all excited and ready for an extra special celebration and to welcome our Ambassador to the United States, Geir H. Haarde, and his wife, Inga Jóna Þórðardóttir, to enjoy the night with us.  We had a record attendance and sold out weeks before the event.  Everyone had fantastic time savouring Icelandic goodies, cherishing old friends and  making new ones in the spirit of Þorrablót’s motto ‚maður er manns gaman´ (men enjoy the company of other men) as says in Hávamál.  We pride ourselves to throw an authentic Icelandic Þorrablót where all generations come togeter and where sheared sheep heads, pickled rams’ testicle, blood and liver pudding, and many other treasured delicacies take center place on the dinner table.  Our Icelandic chef this year, Ari Hallgrímsson, educated adventurous first comers what they were putting on their plate, and our president, Einar Steinsson, stepped on stage and demonstrated how to eat a sheep head, eye ball and all.  Per tradition, we started the party off with a rotten shark and brennivín, a classic; home made gravlax and a twice smoked leg of lamb from Mývatnssveit.  Other home made food was the rúgbrauð (rye bread), and desserts:  kleinur, ástarpungar, sörur, lakkrístoppar (licorice), meringue cream tarts, skyr and, of course, pönnukökur.    Thanks to Hemmi Ara, our Icelandic musician, we did a lot of singing and no one was exempt when it came to the competition of the men‘s and women‘s choir.  Anna Kárdal decorated the room and this year‘s theme was Svartfuglsegg (Guillemot eggs).

11th Annual Midsommar Nott Celebration

Info from Vasa Park:
Saturday, June 18.  MIDSOMMAR. Park opens at 3:00.  Picnic dinner at 6:00 Please bring a family sized dish to pass.  Main course furnished by Scandinavian Park.
Traditional Maypole raising and dancing, games for children, bonfire lighting and traditional toast at sunset.
Donation - $5.00 per adult. Free for Scandinavian Park members with 2016 membership card - free for children 12 and under.
Reservations required by June 16, 2016. Call 630-665-7866 or email

Sunday, September 11, 2016.  SCANDINAVIAN DAY.  10:00AM - 6:00PM. Admission $10.00  Children 12 and under free.
Fabulous entertainment:  Abba Salute, Jaerv, Kyle Elsbernd and Dave Kirkeby, Ron Eckberg, Leikarringen Heimhug and ICELANDIC VIOLINIST - Dorothy Shaw.
Many vendors of Scandinavian wares, wonderful Scandinavian food,, beverages including Nordic Beer tasting, Viking Bar and Outdoor Beer Garden, coffee, soft drinks Lingonberry Saft and ICELANDIC GLACIAL WATER.
Children's activities including Pony rides and face painting.
Mark your calendars for this event and plan to help in the Water booth

Sunday, June 5th.  BAROKOKO. A program of songs by Swedish poet Carl Michael Bellman and other composers from the 18th and 19th centuries.  2:00 PM - 4:00 PM.
Bring a picnic basket and spend a summer afternoon under the stately oaks of Vasa Park.
Free admission - beverages will be available to purchase - no food vendors at this event - no reservations required. http:/


The Greater Icelandic Open: August 28th

Registration for The Icelandic Open starts soon. It will be at the same place as the last few years, Hilldale Golf Club in Hoffman Estate, Sunday August 28th. Spots are limited and we have sold out for the last five years! Trip to Iceland for a ‘hole in one’ and lots of other goodies. If you already know you are going to play, send an email to Lena and Einar at to reserve a spot. Spread the word.

INL of NA 97th Annual Convention, Vancouver, BC, 28 April-1 May 2016
The following are some of the highlights of the Icelandic National League of North America’s 97th AGM, attended by IAC member, John H. Hofteig, for which there were just over 200 registered attendees, including many guests from Iceland.
The Convention was book-ended, beginning and ending, with organized tours of Vancouver.  Thursday afternoon, volunteers from the convention host, the Icelandic Canadian Club of British Columbia [ICCBC], led a self-directed city tour with optional ends either at Stanley Park and the nearby Queen Elizabeth Botanical Gardens or at one of the multiple waterfront eatery districts.  Both tours began with a visit to the surviving Icelandic Lutheran Church, once at the center of the earliest Icelandic settlement in the area, a congregation which in recent years has been the beneficiary of very generous support from a nearby German Lutheran congregation.  The Icelandic Lutheran Church, as it is still known by the locals, will soon be rebuilt as a five-storey development, a public-private partnership, providing modest affordable senior housing rental units while the congregation will retain one floor for its sanctuary and community outreach.  The much more extensive all-day Sunday bus tour included a tour to the Höfn Icelandic Harbor [as in “safe-haven/refuge”], a large assisted-living senior residence, the third major successor to Vancouver’s original Icelandic Retirement Home, a strikingly modern building with all the amenities and a priceless curated photographic documentation of Icelanders throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, Victoria, Blaine, and Point Roberts, complete with decades of relevant art work and Icelandic mementoes throughout the entire building.  The Höfn is overseen by a professional, experienced, dedicated Board of Directors, which still includes members from the original Icelandic Community which was the founding benefactor and still provides considerable volunteer support.  Because occupancy in the Höfn is significantly subsidized by city, regional, and provincial authorities, enrollment is no longer simply the prerogative of Icelandic descent.  Currently, only one of the residents is of Icelandic descent and she opened her very tastefully-appointed apartment, filled with priceless original Icelandic artwork.  The tour ended at the Scandinavian Community Centre, furnished with artwork and libraries provided by all five Scandinavian Communities, with a luncheon and genealogical presentations from the volunteer Icelandic Roots Project.
The Convention theme was Strandarsaga --- A Coast Story, not entirely limited to greater Vancouver and Victoria.  Notable presentations included:
A world-premiere, of sorts, of a dramatic reading of four of the Ten Plays [Tiu Leikret] by Guttormur J. Guttormsson, organized by the author’s granddaughter, Heather Alda Ireland, the current long-time Honorary Icelandic Consul General for British Columbia and the Yukon:  One of the readers --- these plays were actually meant only to be read rather than be staged, per se, as “plays” --- was former IAC-member, Gunnar Ólafur Hansson, Ph.D., now resident in Vancouver.  One of the editors of the Nordic Journal of Linguistics, he is an acknowledged English, Icelandic, and Russian linguist.
An historical survey of western migration across North America by both Canadian- and American- Icelanders presented by W. D. (Bill) Valgardson, the semi-retired veteran of thirty years experience as a senior faculty member at the University of Victoria; a long-time Trustee of the Richard and Margaret Beck Trust, which the Beck’s endowed to provide relevant lectures on Iceland and its culture at the University of Victoria [their final adopted home after distinguished careers at St. Olaf College, Thiel College, and finally at the University of North Dakota for 38 years]; a prolific writer and editor of short stories now published in multiple languages; and briefly once the editor of the Winnipeg-based Lögberg-Heimskringla:  Bill’s presentation was organized under the rubric of Horace Greeley’s iconic advice:  “Go West, young man, go West!”  Immediately recognized by virtually all of the Western Icelanders in the audience, regardless of being resident in Canada or the United States, even by many of the attendees directly from Iceland, Horace Greeley’s advice was further amplified by reference to his admonition to young North Americans to go not where they were necessarily “wanted” but rather where they and their skills were “needed,’’ i.e., where there would be the greatest long-term economic opportunity.  Greeley’s advice was yet more specific to young men contemplating going west:  Learn to chop wood; learn to plow [the prairie]; and learn to mow grass, i.e., hay.  While perfectly obvious to immigrants already well-established in North America, these imperatives were foreign to Icelanders and presented unique challenges:  There were essentially no woods in Iceland.  There were no opportunities for native Icelanders to have learned to plow when Icelandic fields were full of lava with barely any remaining topsoil.  In Iceland, there was meager short-grass, suitable for grazing sheep, but none of the high-grass encountered on the North American prairie.
Yet the always westward Icelandic immigrants persevered, always avidly seeking educational opportunity for their children, a luxury available to only the privileged few in Iceland in the 1870’s, owing to severe economic and natural disasters then prevalent, despite near-universal literacy.  Even after having settled and established themselves in Victoria by the 1880’s, Icelandic immigrants continued to expand out across the West Coast to Point Roberts, Blaine, Bellingham, and Seattle, driven both by adversities in Victoria [a severe economic depression, devastating outbreaks of small pox and scarlet fever, overly harsh quarantines during the second small pox epidemic, and being confined to a relatively small area in the original plat of Victoria, with precious little land for domestic vegetable gardens] and more abundant opportunities elsewhere during the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century.   While quoting extensively from the family histories of Canadian-Icelanders, the same challenges and motivations were also very relevant to the American-Icelandic immigrant experience.  In both countries, westward expansion and mobility really only became a practical possibility, for the first time, by the completion of each country’s respective transcontinental railway.
A tribute to retiring Ambassador Hjálmar Hanesson and his wife, Anna Birgis, and a belated tribute to Hjálmar’s immediate predecessor as Iceland’s Consul General in Winnipeg, Ambassador Atli Ásmundsson, and his wife, þrúður Helgadóttir:  Hjálmar, who turned 70 this past April, has had a distinguished 40-year-long diplomatic career, highlights of which included postings to Canada, the United Nations, and the United States.  Both Atli and Hjálmar carved-out a unique role as Iceland’s only professional, full-time diplomats posted outside of the Embassies in Ottawa, Washington, DC, and New York City [the U. N.], in part, because of the large numbers of Western Icelanders in Manitoba.  As Hjálmar stated, they both were always “disrespectful” of the 49th Parallel.  Both of them actively served the entire North American Icelandic Community from Minnesota, North Dakota, and all of the Canadian provinces west of Winnipeg.
Reelection and election of IAC-members:  Joni Shaw, recently an INL of NA Director-at-Large as Co-Director of the International Visits Program, was reelected and John H. Hofteig was newly elected as a Director-at-Large, recruited to concentrate on INL of NA fundraising issues.
Further relevant information is available on the Icelandic National League of North America’s enhanced website:                        J.H.H.

Viking ship sailing to Chicago: Draken Harald Hårfagre

A modern day version of a Viking Ship is sailing from Norway to Chicago. It is named after Harald Hårfagre the first King of Norway. Come see it at Navy Pier between July 27th and 31st!

Information about the expedition and Viking Ship:
Information about the Pepsi Tall Ships Chicago 2016 at Navy Pier: