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Minnesota National Guard
Norwegian Exchange Farewell Banquet

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn  " Approximately 400 people were in attendance Feb 19, 2012 to bid farewell to the Norwegian Soldiers and youth who participated in the 39th Annual Norwegian Exchange program, which took place at Camp Ripley from Feb 9-23

The annual farewell banquet was held this year at the Falls Ballroom in Little Falls, Minn "This is the first time we have held the banquet here, but the Soldiers and civilians all seemed to like the location very much," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dan Bednarek, Camp Ripley Community Relations Officer

 The farewell banquet is the culminating event for the exchange program  Notable civilian and military dignitaries on hand for the evening were the Minnesota State Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, the Norwegian Consul General Honorable Gary Gandrud and the Norwegian Defense Attaché, Col Roy Abelson

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"This was a fine program," said Consul General Gandrud  "It is always fun to talk to the Soldiers and youth from Norway who come over on this program"

During the evening's festivities, Brig Gen Neal Loidolt, Assistant Adjutant General for the Minnesota National Guard, gave a speech about the connection between Minnesota and Norway

"The country of Norway and the State of Minnesota share a long and proud history together"said Loidolt  He added, "Early Norwegian settlers who moved to the Mid-West were drawn to Minnesota because it reminded them of home  The landscape was familiar, the forests were plentiful, and the crop land fertile"  He joked, "Also the winters were no worse than at home " they weren't any better, but they weren't any worse" 

Later Lt. Col. Vidar Dahl, the officer-in-charge of the Norwegian contingent, introduced a group of Norwegian youth who displayed traditional costumes and dress from Norway  This was a big hit with the audience as they cheered and clapped for their favorite costumes 

The evening concluded with the traditional announcing of the best Norwegian youth platoon  This year the blue platoon took home the ceremonial honors to shouts of congratulations from the red and white platoons  

And with the exit of the official party, the 39th iteration of the exchange program closed  "Plans are already underway to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the exchange program in 2013," said Bednarek

Story by Maj John Donovan
Camp Ripley Public Affairs Officer

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