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Press Release

Las Vegas Celebrates ‘Leif Erikson Day’

Published on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 (8:51 a.m.)

It’s a common misconception that Leif Erikson Day, to be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 9, was simply made up for an episode of Sponge Bob (To wit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YqehGlg6m8.)

But to the 52,000 Scandinavian-Americans who call Las Vegas home, this day resonates with historical significance, particularly in 2013, 50 years since the holiday was first suggested in Congress as a national observance. President Obama and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak have both declared Wednesday Leif Erikson Day.

Local Scandinavians are marking the occasion by more than repeating Sponge Bob’s humorous refrain making fun of Scandinavian sing-song accents – “Hinga, Dinga, Durgen.” They are:

• Recognizing the good deeds of nine locals with “Leif Erikson Hometown Hero Awards” at an event Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at the South Point hotel-casino. The winners are being recognized for exhibiting these core Viking traits: Imagination, vision, collaboration and fearlessness. These Good Samaritan Vikings are not Scandinavian and include the woman who started Opportunity Village, a Metro police officer who engaged a criminal shooter near the Las Vegas Strip, a woman who was instrumental in growing the local food bank, and more. The recipients have been featured on the “Hometown Heroes” television show appearing on KCLV cable television Channel 2.

• Launching for the second straight year a Leif Erikson drawing competition for children in grades 1-5 who can win Target gift cards of $100, $50 and $25. The contest is open to students of all ethnicities with the aim of encouraging the growth of the core Viking traits in Las Vegas-area children. Some $875 in prizes will be awarded. Details are available at www.LeifEriksonDay.com.

• Visiting local schools dressed as Vikings to present information about what they did and their role in world history.

“This initiative is designed to focus attention on the Vikings and those traits that made them successful as they explored, traded with and settled large swaths of the known world,” said Christian Schoyen, who is spearheading this effort. “It is easy to romanticize the exploits of the Vikings and we can do that to achieve other ends. For children, we hope to help improve educational outcomes. For everyone else, we want to spotlight those ‘Good Samaritan Vikings’ who have made this community a better place.”

”For most people, the understanding of the Vikings is universal and, therefore, people can easily relate and understand what we are doing. We believe we can make a difference with our work for both the children growing up here and for the Las Vegas community as we strive to increase community spirit, which is one of the core traits we want to highlight: Collaboration,” Schoyen said.

Erik Pappa, president of the Vegas Viking Lodge of the Sons of Norway, the organization supporting these endeavors, agreed: “Leif and his 35 men displayed remarkable bravery and courage in crossing the ocean to get here. While the holiday has significance for the 52,000 Scandinavians who call the Las Vegas Valley home, everyone can take pride in Leif’s triumph, which has inspired generations of Americans.”

It has been exactly 50 years since a bill was first introduced to make Leif Erikson Day a national observance. In 1963, U.S. Representative John Blatnik of Iowa introduced a bill to observe Leif Erikson Day nationwide. The following year Congress adopted this unanimously. In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the President to create the observance through an annual proclamation. Lyndon B. Johnson and each President since have done so.

Leif Erikson was born in Iceland but had Norwegian heritage. He was the son of the Viking Erik the Red and sailed to America with 35 men, including one German, who was credited with finding grapes and thus the name the Vikings gave to their discovery: Vinland.

The 2000 Census showed 52,000 Scandinavians in Clark County – 20,000 Norwegians, 20,000 Swedes, 10,000 Danes and 2,000 who called themselves Scandinavian. The 2010 Census did not break out most ethnicities.

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The Vegas Viking lodge ( www.vegasviking.com ) was organized in May 1992 and has been involved in a wide variety of special events featuring traditional and contemporary programs having a Norwegian-American flavor ever since. As part of the Sons of Norway, it is a fraternal benefit and cultural society dedicated to preserving Norwegian heritage in North America and strengthening the ties between North America and modern Norway. Vegas Viking also helps local charities through donations. The 2000 Census showed 52,000 Scandinavians in Clark County – 20,000 Norwegians, 20,000 Swedes, 10,000 Danes and 2,000 who called themselves Scandinavian.