Official visit to the US
His Majesty The King has begun a week-long official visit to the US. The King arrived in Seattle on Wednesday evening, and will be visiting the states of Washington and Alaska.
Some 450 000 people in Washington State are of Norwegian descent, with roughly 60 Norwegian-American groups and organisations located there as well. Many people subscribe to the Norwegian American Weekly, which has been published since 1889.
“It is easy to understand why so many Norwegian immigrants chose Seattle as their new home,” said King Harald in his remarks on Thursday evening. “With the backdrop of hills and mountains and the closeness to the ocean, it looks very much like parts of Norway. I also know that you are no strangers to wet weather. All of you who have been to Norway’s second largest city will probably agree: It makes perfect sense that Bergen and Seattle are twin cities.”
After a leisurely start on Thursday, when the King was the guest at an official luncheon hosted by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, King Harald had a busy programme of activities on Friday.
The day began with a tourism workshop in Seattle in which King Harald met with representatives of the Norwegian and US tourism industry. Innovation Norway brought together tour operators and travel agents for a workshop on opportunities for the tourism industry in Norway and the northwestern US – a discussion that continued during the luncheon that followed. A brief film about Norway as a tourist destination was also shown for the roughly 70 guests in attendance.
Pacific Fishermen Shipyard
In the afternoon, King Harald visited Pacific Fishermen Shipyard in Ballard, which was founded in 1946 by 400 fishermen of Norwegian descent and their families. Ballard, a district in the northwestern part of Seattle, has a long history in shipping and fisheries.
King Harald was welcomed by Mr Doug Dixon, President of Pacific Fishermen Shipyard, who gave the King a tour of the shipyard and talked about its history. During the tour, the King had the opportunity to greet members of the area’s vibrant Norwegian-American community. Among them were ship owners, fishermen and crab fishers - one of them Mr Sig Hansen from the TV seires Deadliest Catch.
Seattle and Bergen are sister cities, and a small park in Ballard is called Bergen Place. Ballard – and Bergen Place – is said to be the site of the largest Norwegian Constitution Day celebration outside of Norway each year on 17 May.
Part of the park is dedicated to a large mural with scenes from Ballard’s long history of logging and shipping. The mural has been undergoing renovation, and yesterday King Harald unveiled a restored version of the painting, which also emphasises the close ties between Seattle and Scandinavia.
Spoke in the evening
In the evening, King Harald attended a banquet that was hosted by Norway’s Ambassador to the US, Kåre Aas, with various representatives of the Washington State Norwegian-American community as guests.
King Harald gave the first speech of his visit during the banquet. The King emphasised the many cultural ties between Norway and Washington State, which make it so easy for Norwegians to feel at home in Seattle. He also thanked Americans for their warm hospitality, both in more recent visits to the US and during the five years that he and his father, then Crown Prince Olav, and the rest of his family spent in the US during the Nazi occupation of Norway in WWII.
“I am deeply grateful for the generosity and hospitality we felt throughout those five years in the United States. Your country has had a special place in my heart ever since.”
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.