Join Norway in celebrating 125 years this week

Twenty-five years ago, the city of Norway marked its centennial with five days of festivities at Marion Park.

The event was so popular, and so successful, community officials didn’t hesitate to plan a similar festival for the city’s quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary, in 2016.

That celebration now is underway.

“It’s a milestone year,” City Manager Ray Anderson said. “We wanted to tie it in with everyone coming back for the Fourth of July weekend.”

Norway 125, which continues through Sunday night at Marion Park, features live music from local and national acts, a lumberjack show, a bounce house for kids, crafters and food and beverage vendors. The Roy Allard Memorial 125 stock car race fires up at noon Sunday at Norway Speedway.

The musical lineup at the park is diverse – Warrant, Saving Abel, JT Hodges, John Michael Montgomery, Aaron Tippin and Sammy Kershaw.

“We wanted a wide selection for all age groups and different genres,” said Shawn Carlson, who worked on the festival’s entertainment.

Organizers have been planning the Norway 125 festival for the past year and a half.

“We couldn’t pull this off without a solid group of people,” Carlson said, citing the support of volunteers, local businesses and the city.

Volunteers still are needed to work throughout the festival weekend.

Money raised from the festival will go to Norway’s parks and recreation fund for construction or repair projects, Anderson said.

In 1877, the first building went up in Norway, possibly built from the abundant Norway pines that are said to have inspired the city’s name.

Mineral adventurers soon discovered rich deposits of iron ore, and the community’s growth took off. With the discovery of the Aragon mine in 1887, the town experienced a “boom.”

Norway Township was organized in 1881. Ten years later, on April 27, 1891, the city of Norway was incorporated.

That same year, a masquerade ball was held at the Norway Opera House, with music by the Norway Orchestra. About 200 people attended, including 60 couples who dressed in masks and elegant costumes.

“It was one of the most pleasant affairs ever seen here,” the Norway Current reported. “The maskers put in an early appearance and by 10 o’clock the hall was like a huge and ever changing kaleidoscope. The costumes were richer and more varied than ever before seen in Norway and represented every era and character which has been know of or written about since Adam was a boy. We will not attempt to describe them because life is too short to permit a hope of ever finishing and the ladies would be on our trail with horsewhips and pistols before we were half through. Masks were off at 12 o’clock and surprises were many. Lunch was then served in the hall and dancing resumed. About 4 o’clock a.m. everyone started towards home and the event of the season was at an end.”

The event of the season, indeed.

Fast forward 125 years, if you can comprehend it. No masks or costumes are needed to attend this year’s Marion Park festival. Just a willingness to join a “most pleasant affair.”

Congratulations, Norway.