Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Utah Iceland Days 2008

The 111th annual Iceland Days in Utah was held June 20, 21 and 22, 2008 in Spanish Fork.

Friday, June 20th the Icelandic Association held workshops Friday evening. Thelma Marinosdottir-Moreland opened the workshops with a light-hearted general session telling the attendees how to stay on the good side of Icelanders when visiting in Iceland. Other sessions included; how to write an ancestral history by Lin Floyd, educator, librarian and family history specialist from St. George, Utah. Lin has recently wrote a history of her ancestors Vilborg Jóhanna Þórðardóttir, born 5 February 1831 at Hjaleigusandar, Storidalur undir Eyjafjollum, Rangarvalla; and her second husband, Sigurður Árnason, born 28 November 1842 in Vestmannaeyjar. Another workshop session, by Icelandic Association president Jack Tobiasson, taught Icelandic folk songs while still another was a slide-show presentation by Rick Mathews and Tyler Shepherd of their tour to Iceland in 2007. The last session taught how to make Icelandic pönnukökur, a workshop that was repeated again this year because of its popularity at last year’s workshops.

The traditional Iceland Days Family Festival was Saturday, June 21st in the Spanish Fork City Park at Center and Main streets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The festival featured displays, artifacts, memorabilia, family history, entertainment and food.

Events included: a Barnabǽr, with a variety of activities for the children of all ages; Barnakór, singing songs in Icelandic; a medley by Icelandic descendant, songwriter-singer Kathryn Warner; the presentation of honorees Kathleen Reilly from Payson, Utah and Karen and Ed Anderson of Spanish Fork; a bus tour of historic Icelandic sites in Spanish Fork; Icelandic folksongs by Tanner and Jack Tobiasson; report of the status of the Icelandic Association of Utah by David Ashby; Icelandic poetry by Vell and Jeanne Runolfson; an Icelandic tale by storyteller, Cherie Davis, from the Timpanogos Storytelling Guild in Orem, Utah; Icelandic folk songs by Darline Ivie and Lanae Baxter and David spoke about Dagbjört Dagbjartsdóttir, born 18 October 1862, the daughter of Dagbjartur Hafliðason who is the brother of Katrin Hafliðasdóttir, the mother of Eyjólfur Eríksson, David’s great grandfather, who emigrated from Iceland to Utah in 1882. Dagbjort immigrated to Victoria B.C. in 1887 the same year as David’s great grandmother Jarþrúður Runólfsdóttir immigrated to Utah. Dagbjort wrote a diary of her trip from Iceland to Canada. There are very few first hand reports of the Icelandic emigrants to North America. Dagbjort’s diary is typical of what many emigrants from Iceland to North America would have experienced.

At the Iceland Days Festival in Utah there was a distinct Icelandic flavor with the food, which included; pönnukökurs, kleinur, and pylsur, the latter imported from Iceland, served with Icelandic mustard and fried onions, also from Iceland. A lunch with lamb, red cabbage, a roll, and green salad was also on the menu.

An election was held for new officers of the Icelandic Association of Utah. Devon Koyle was elected as president and Tyler Shepherd as vice-president. They will serve for the next two years.

Iceland Days in Spanish Fork concluded with a religious meeting (fireside chat) on Sunday evening, with featured speaker Dr. Jack R. Christianson, an administrator at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah and the former director of the Orem Institute of Religion. Jack is a descendant of Eggert Kristjánsson, born 1 September 1869 at Modruvallaklaustur, Eyjafjardar; and Sesselja Jónsdóttir, born 26 February 1868 in Kross, Rangarvalla.

Jack told about his great-great-grandfather, Eggert, and his struggles as a young man. Eggert’s father died when he was only six years old. After the death of his father, his mother, Anna Sigridur Gudmundsdottir, took all of her children except the two oldest, Johannes and Arngimur, to Canada, where they settled in “New Iceland” in the Winnipeg area. Anna was a midwife and was helping with the birth of a baby when the house caught on fire. She went for help, became lost in a late March blizzard, and was found frozen to death on Lake Winnipeg the next day.

Eggert met a Presbyterian minister, who befriended him and took him to his home in the Dakota Territory. The minister taught Eggert to read and write and sent him to school. At the age fifteen he learned of the Icelandic settlement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Wanting to be with other Icelanders, he walked to Utah, arriving in 1885.

Jack taught that we should know and care about or heritage, care about our roots, read the histories of ancestors. He also taught that we need to be true to God, have faith, love those of other faiths, heal wounded hearts, and remember that God loves all his children.

Past president of the Icelandic Association of Utah, Kristy Robertson, said; “Iceland Days 2008 in Utah was wonderful from beginning to end!” Lin Floyd, who presented a workshop, e-mailed the following comment: "enjoyed myself immensely at Icelandic Days, it was fun."

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