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Minot International Airport

Scandinavian-Americans, birders, and B-52s

For pilots exploring America’s northern prairies, or visiting our northern neighbors, Minot International Airport (MOT), North Dakota, makes a good stopover.
Stave church of Norwegian design found in Minot, North Dakota with architecture similar to structures found in Norway
Zoomed image
Stave church of Norwegian design found in Minot, North Dakota with architecture similar to structures found in Norway

Upon landing, taxi to the Dakota Territory Air Museum in the northwest corner of the airport to gawk at airplanes before heading to the Scandinavian Heritage Park to learn about the region’s history. Perhaps, schedule your landing during the North Dakota State Fair in July to enjoy country music, rodeos, and fried foods.

Pilots often know Minot because of Minot Air Force Base, 15 miles north of the city. The base opened in 1957 as a Strategic Air Command air base housing nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers during the Cold War, much like Burpelson Air Force Base in the movie Dr. Strangelove.

Minot was settled in 1886 during construction of the Great Northern Railway and named for Henry D. Minot, a railroad investor. In recent years, the city has been in the news because of the North Dakota oil boom, which triggered an influx of workers, increasing the population by nearly a third and causing a housing crisis.

Minot is certainly in the far northern reaches of the United States and not on most pilots’ typical flight routes, but you’ll cruise near Minot on a flight between the Pacific Northwest and Oshkosh or Chicago and Calgary. A flight across North Dakota will reward pilots with vistas of vast prairies and thousands of shimmering lakes.

Dakota Territory Air Museum

For pilots, the number one sight in Minot is the Dakota Territory Air Museum, a collection of nearly 60 aircraft, from experimental homebuilts to military transports and jet fighters. Notable aircraft include an Arrow Sport, Stinson Reliant, Lockheed T–33 Shooting Star, and a Supermarine Spitfire. The museum hosts numerous events during the year, including the Wings and Wheels airshow on July 17.

The museum is known for its annual sweepstakes with a grand prize of an aircraft. This year’s sweepstakes winner will receive a 1947 Aeronca Champion (or $25,000). On August 17, the museum celebrates “National Aviation Day” and draws the winning ticket. Or, shake a leg at the “Night at the Museum Hangar Dance” on October 19.

The museum is open from May 18 to October 13, Mondays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Scandinavian Heritage Park

Most Scandinavian immigrants to the United States settled in the upper Midwest states, but also in North Dakota. At Minot’s Scandinavian Heritage Park you’ll find traditional buildings from Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Buildings include replicas of a Norwegian farm storehouse and a Stave Church, plus an authentic 1928 Danish windmill and a 230-year-old house from Norway.

Each year, near the summer solstice, the Scandinavian Heritage Park sponsors a Mid-Summer Festival. This year’s festival will be held June 21 to 23.

Norsk Høstfest

Every autumn, Minot hosts the Norsk Høstfest, America’s largest Scandinavian-American festival. The festival features Nordic entertainment and traditional artisans, plus a village populated with Viking reenactors. Lectures and workshops will enlighten you about Scandinavian history, art, cuisine, and traditions.

If you have a strong stomach, compete in the daily Lutefisk Eating Competition. Contestants vie to consume as much of the traditional Norwegian dish—dried fish rehydrated in a lye solution and cooked, which acquires a gelatinous texture—in order to win...what? Bragging rights? The 2024 Norsk Høstfest will take place September 25 to 28.

Dennis K. Johnson is a private pilot and freelance writer.

Dennis K. Johnson
Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.

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