2023 Fest honorees announced

The 2023 Nordic Fest Grand Marshals, David and Gail Judisch.

Nordic Fest in Decorah is a celebration of all things Scandinavian, but this year’s 56th Fest is also an opportunity to honor those community members who have provided distinguished service year after year. This week, the Nordic Fest Board released the names of the 2023 award winners to be honored at the Fest (July 27-29 in Decorah).

Sue Sander has been named the 2023 Nordic Fest Skål Recipient. The 2023 Nordic Fest Grand Marshals are David and Gail Judisch.

Skål Recipient – Sue Sander 

The Nordic Fest Skål Recipient (previously flag recipient) is an individual or individuals who have demonstrated exceptional and continuing support of the Fest.

For 26 years, Sue Sander generously devoted her time to the Nordic Fest Board, helping continue and establish traditions for all to enjoy. As Sue recalls, her commitment to the Nordic Fest Board originally began in the middle of a haircut, with her hairdresser refusing to finish until Sue said “yes” to joining the planning efforts. Sue had just moved to the Decorah community and appreciated the early encouragement to get involved. That initial encouragement led to more than 2 decades of time, energy, and passion spent in nearly every Board position. Sue even was the Nordic Fest Board President three separate times — in 2003, 2009, and 2013. Sue shares, “I think people are afraid to get on the Nordic Fest Board. It was just as hard for me to decide when it was time to get off.”

While Sue finally did decide to step away from the Board, she has continued to be an avid supporter of Nordic Fest – volunteering wherever she can lend her time and talents to help the annual celebration continue. Sue appreciates the friendships, with area residents and repeat visitors alike, that have formed in her life as a result of her involvement. 

So what is Sue’s recommendation for making the most of Nordic Fest? Sue says, “Be out on the streets. Eat your way from one end of Water Street to the other!” Sue especially recommends trying rømmegrøt, her Favorite Nordic Fest food, and spending time in the Nordic Fest Beverage Garden, a space she helped establish in 2003. 

Grand Marshals –
David and Gail Judisch

Nordic Fest Grand Marshal is an individual or individuals who have provided outstanding services to the Community.

Since 1974, David and Gail Judisch have devoted their time, energy, and talents to various endeavors around the Decorah community and beyond. They also, proudly, haven’t missed a Nordic Fest in 49 years! 

David and Gail both grew up on farms in NE Iowa, eventually meeting in high school. The two pursued college degrees in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, married, and then found their way back to the Northeast corner of the state when David was hired by Weston Noble to fill a spot in the music department at Luther College. Soon after, Gail was hired as a nurse in Luther College’s Health Services Office. They originally stayed in Decorah for the jobs, but ended up developing roots in the community. Eventually, David and Gail both retired from Luther College (David as Professor of Music and Gail from Health Services), each offering decades of service to students, and fellow staff and faculty members. Throughout their careers, and now in retirement, David and Gail have committed hours upon hours of time to community organizations.

David has served as the Luren Singers Director for 48 years, performing with the group for the King of Norway on five separate occasions. He has been repeatedly elected as Director-in-Chief of the Norwegian Singers Association of America since 1984. Over the years, David has also participated in organizations such as New Minowa Players, Nordic Fest, Path to Citizenship, and the NEIPJC Immigration Working Group. 

Gail’s nursing background led her to be involved for 19 years with the Winneshiek County American Cancer Society and as a volunteer for many years for a nurse-managed cancer detection center. In addition, she’s served as an outdoor Vesterheim Museum guide and helped run various activities and resources for Nordic Fest. Gail was also a founding member of Northern Lights Women’s Choir, which was initially started by the Luren Singers’ wives in the 1990s. She continues to be passionate about World Relief. 

Together, David and Gail are members of Sons of Norway-Decorah, members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and involved with the Decorah Area Community Meal. The biggest joys in their lives, however, are their sons – Nathaniel and Aaron. David and Gail are “humbled to be Grand Marshals for the 2023 Nordic Fest and are well aware of how so many people in this community give so much of themselves, their time, their ideas, their effort, their money, and themselves to make this community a great place to live.”

Submit A Comment

Fill out the form to submit a comment. All comments require approval by our staff before it is displayed on the website.

Notify of
0 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments