In looking back on the last year, I think we can all be pleased with our accomplishments.
Established in 1918, the Icelandic National League has been involved in many worthy endeavours throughout the years and has sometimes had to fight for its survival. We can be proud that we have survived and that more and more people are benefiting from our programs, learning about and enjoying our heritage and ties to Iceland.
The year started out with a great party in Vancouver to honour the Icelandic Ski Team and their participation in the 2010 Winter Olympics. On behalf of the Vancouver club, INL of NA President Gerri McDonald gave them a copy of our recently completed INL History Book, which was many years in the making and showed our tenacity in finally completing this comprehensive history of our group.
Our links to Iceland were strengthened by our financial help to the Snorri Program for our youth; this year 15 young people went to Iceland for six weeks, as well as a smaller group of those a little older who travelled with Snorri Plus. Also, a group of young women came to Manitoba with Snorri West.
Our Vice President Ron Goodman participated in recommending students for the University of Iceland Scholarship Committee. In September, we increased our bond with the INL of Iceland by presentations of our Board members at their Annual convention. Pam Olafson Furstenau covered North Dakota, Brad Hirst talked on the Icelandic Camp and I spoke on behalf of INL of NA. Pam was added to the Board of INL of Iceland. In addition, our clubs hosted many tours led by people such as Almar Grímsson and Jonas Thor.
Our webmaster Holly Ralph had her challenges with our website, but perseverance led to success and an ever stronger website. The addition of a strong Facebook presence was Rob Olason and Pam Furstenau assured the addition of a strong Facebook presence which enhances our presence on the web.
In our continuing mandate to increase our visibility, we participated in festivals in Fargo in June (Hjemkomst, which featured Iceland this year) and in Mountain and Gimli in August (the Deuce of August and Íslendingadagurinn). We were particularly pleased that President Gerri’s efforts to produce an INL of NA banner bore fruit and we proudly participated in the parades in both towns, as well as having me as new President riding in an open car.
We welcomed back to our fold the Icelandic Communities Association club in Mountain, and are now on a campaign to attract other non-member clubs to join us. We have re-examined what our member clubs want from us, and as a result have added three new programs. The first of these is an Icelandic film program, sponsored by Donald K. Johnson, under which two Icelandic films (with English subtitles) are being screened by clubs across North America, and have been very well received. We are also working on a Settlement Tours program, under which clubs will be visiting each other and their local settlement areas. The first of these will coincide with June 17 celebrations in Winnipeg and will include our cousins from North Dakota and Minnesota.
The latest initiative is one being chaired by Rob Olason and titled INL of NA Reads. Members are being encouraged to select a book which all of us can read and discuss. The winning title will be announced at the Convention in Edmonton in April. Nominations are open on the INL of NA website http://inlofna.org/
Which leads to talk of conventions, the lifeblood of our organization. Toronto hosted the 2010 convention in April, which featured a tour of our settlement areas of Hekla and Kinmount, a varied selection of programs with speakers from Iceland, USA and Canada, films, a windup brunch with inspiring motivational speaker Linda Lundström and lots of interaction between us all. The well loved Haraldur Bessasson received the Laurence Johnson Award for Lifetime Achievement. At that time I became President with Ron Goodman of Calgary as 1st Vice President and Claire Eckley of Minneapolis as 2nd Vice President and a strong team to support us.
Since then we have increased the number of conference call executive meetings, as we had a number of issues to resolve. The main one has been the issue of conventions – how to fund them in the light of decreased financial assistance from Iceland, how to simplify them, how to ensure lots of ‘face time’ for all of us to get to know one another better, how to help smaller clubs mount them, what role in the finances INL of NA should play. Brandon has indicated their willingness to organize the 2012 convention on the understanding that they alone would not bear the financial risk. In the meantime, the strong Edmonton club is in the midst of organizing what looks like a great 2011 convention which includes many interesting elements, not the least of which is a visit by Iceland’s president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, as well as our astronaut Bjarni Trygvasson. Dates are April 28 to May 1 and registration is open now, with an Early Bird deadline coming up.
I made the rash promise of attempting to visit all the clubs during my second term, and so far have managed to get to Fargo, Mountain, Gimli, Lundar, Arborg, and Blaine, with plans in January for Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and maybe even an exploratory visit to the (not yet member) clubs in California. It has been very rewarding to meet all these club members and hear of their triumphs and issues.
Another rewarding feature of 2010 was the close co-operation between INL of NA and Lögberg-Heimskringla, under the leadership of editor Bill Valgardson, and now interim editor, our own Joan Eyolfson Cadham. The paper just keeps getting better and better, and all are encouraged to submit stories and to subscribe. For those who are concerned about paper clutter, or protecting trees, L-H offers an online edition that is only $35 a year.
The International Visits program was active, with writer Christina Sunley of California introducing the Icelandic translation of The Tricking of Freya in Reykjavík and Akureyri, with very good results. October was the month when we all got to learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull with the highly entertaining and informative whirlwind tour of Kristinn Guðjónsson to twelve clubs, under the IVP.
November saw a successful campaign to help those in need in Iceland to celebrate Christmas, with a donation from clubs, members, and matching INL donation of $2,000, to a total of over $10,000 to the five Mæðrastyrksnefnd charities. Again, INL Iceland aided us, with Almar and Ásta Sól making the presentations.
Perhaps the biggest success story of the year was the 2011 calendar, featuring Icelandic food and recipes, organized by the very capable Gwen Mann and her committee. It was an immediate sellout, followed by a second printing and then a third one, with the demand still unfilled. Our thanks to Garry Oddleifson for his unflagging efforts in getting them distributed. Dianne O’Konski and her committee are hard at work on the 2012 and 2013 calendars, which will feature Icelandic fauna and flora – the submissions have been numerous and beautiful.
2011 promises to be a good year for INL of NA, with celebrations coming up honouring the 100th birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, the father of independence in Iceland, a great convention, new programs to look forward to, an ongoing campaign to attract more member clubs and members, and lots of good fellowship and fun.
Thank you to all of you out there who have worked so hard to ensure the continuing success of the INL of NA, including our Executive, Presidents, all members, and secretary Gwen Grattan. Höldum áfram!