Some of the numerous Norwegian-themed gifts nowavailable at the Ballard House, made possible with cooperation by Vesterheim Museum Store.
Some of the numerous Norwegian-themed gifts now

available at the Ballard House, made possible with cooperation by Vesterheim Museum Store.
The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is now located in the beautifully remodeled lower level of the Ballard House on Main Street.

The main room, also known as Giants Hall, has striking paintings by Norwegian artist Sigmund Aarseth, that tell the story of early pioneer life in the area. These paintings were done specifically for the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

The Ballard House houses the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center as well as a Norwegian gift store and two-floors of antique dealers. There are many things to see and do at the Ballard House.

Tell your story for all posterity

During Syttende Mai, the Giants of the Earth will once again be collecting oral histories.

"There are many stories out there that give a picture of what life was like in a different time than right now," commented Karen Gray, Giants of the Earth board member. "We want to record these stories about special events or everyday life because this is our history."

They have a special room for recording these unique stories. They have been able to purchase high-quality video recording equipment from monies from the Dan Huebner matching funds grant.

This equipment will help preserve the stories in excellent viewing quality. People do not have to pre-register to be a part of the oral histories, however they may if they want to make sure they are a part of the story.

Past-recorded oral histories will also be shown for people to listen to and enjoy.

Recording sessions will be 50 minutes long and will cover certain topics each hour. The recording times and topics are:

9 a.m. - Ballard House/Florence motel;

10 a.m. - WWII veteran stories;

11 a.m. - family Bibles and their info;

12 p.m. - letters to and from the homeland;

3 p.m. - folk/storytelling from childhood;

4 p.m. - childbirth and infants in Spring Grove, and

5 p.m. - Sons of Norway.

Learn about genetic genealogy

On Saturday, genetics expert and Spring Grove resident, Dr. Johnathan Storlie, will be giving a presentation about how to do genetic genealogy and why doing a genetic test helps people make genealogical connections and the health information it can reveal.

He will be talking about the 23andMe project, which offers a simple and affordable genetic test. This presentation will be given before and after the parade on Saturday.

Storlie will also be on hand throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday to speak with people and answer questions that they may have about genetic genealogy.

Become part of SG's history

Work continues on the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center Collaborative Tree - a huge genealogical tree. It is a database of nearly 30,500 people who have lived in the Spring Grove area (Norwegian Ridge) or have relatives and connections here.

People are encouraged to bring in information to add to the collaborative as well as use it to find connections to their own family trees.

In Giants Hall there is an Immigrant Wall, actually walls to be exact. The immigrant names on the walls are hand lettered by Sigmund Aarseth's American colleague, Sallie Haugen DeReus.

The names are located on the walls according to where they lived in Spring Grove. A name can be added to the Immigrant Wall for $2,500 donation to Giants of the Earth Heritage Center to help them continue their mission.

Register for special drawings

Special drawings will also be taking place during the Syttende Mai celebration. People are encouraged to stop by the Ballard House and check out the genetic genealogy and register to win a prize.

The prizes were all donated by Giants Fine and Folk Arts School instructors and the contractors who restored the building.

The first drawing will be for a 23andMe DNA test kit and will take place one hour after the parade on Saturday. The remaining items will be drawn for on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Check out Norwegian items

Looking for a Norwegian souvenir? The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center now has a Norwegian Gift Store in collaboration with the Vesterheim Museum Store in Decorah, Iowa.

There are many items available including authentic Norwegian sweaters, children's books, jewelry, art supplies, postcards, children's games, Norwegian food and more.

The Ballard House will be open Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located on Main Street. For more information about the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center and the very latest information about their events, visit their website, or and click on the Heritage link. Information will also be posted on their FaceBook page.

The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is a "non-profit educational institution, dedicated to honoring, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of the people from Spring Grove's Norwegian Ridge in southeastern Minnesota."