Minot, N.D. - The 40th Annual Norsk Høstfest is a feast for the senses -- from the smell and taste of all that delicious food, the sight of trolls, and the feel of a warm Norwegian sweater.
So what about the sound of Høstfest? Perhaps nothing sets the tone for the Scandinavian festival quite as well as a waltz played on an accordion -- and that's something you'll hear before you've even scanned your ticket into Høstfest.
The sound comes courtesy of Jerry Schlag, who got his first accordion when he was ten years old.
Every morning during Høstfest, Schlag sets up shop in the sun-drenched Leif Eriksson Millennium Hall and gets festival-goers in the mood with a musical "Velkommen."
"You're almost like a one man band," says Schlag. "You've got the melody over here, and the rhythm in the left hand side."
He's one of many accordionists scattered throughout the halls here -- and a founding member of the Norsk Høstfest Accordion Club, which has been performing at the festival since the late 1980s.
Oh, and did I mention that Jerry Schlag has never missed a Høstfest?
"Oh, it's like a big party! It's like a reunion!" he says. "You start playing, and after half a tune, all of a sudden somebody you know comes along, then you've gotta start talking about old times, and probably finish the tune."
So who cares if he's actually German? "I tell people that I'm Scandinavian one week out of the year," he laughs. "And yes, I do eat lutefisk, too!"
Schlag says it's those reunions with old friends -- and smiles and greetings from new ones -- that keep him coming back year after year.
"As soon as it's over, you feel like hurrying and getting home because you need the rest. But the next day you get up and you wish it was starting again."
Jerry Schlag -- an accordionist with perfect Høstfest attendance -- is someone you should know.
Schlag also brings his accordion to local nursing homes a few times a week.
You can hear him play each morning from 8 to 10 in the main entrance hall of the Norsk Høstfest.
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