Counting down to Miss Norway contest

At the end of this month, a new Miss Norway will be crowned in Brooklyn.

The competition, which is organized by the Norwegian Immigration Association (NIA), leads up to one of the borough’s most beloved annual displays, the 17th of May parade that celebrates the Norwegian constitution, and which will be held, this year, on Saturday, May 16th.

But, first, members of NIA will gather to determine who will be Miss Norway of Greater New York for 2010, at the Norwegian Christian Home, 1250 67th Street, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 27th.

Participating in the competition is simple, said Vibeke Steineger, who runs the event for NIA. To compete, she said, contestants need to be between the ages of 17 and 24, have a knowledge of Norwegian culture and have at least one grandparent who is Norwegian. Usually, there are between 10 and 20 contestants, she said. The competition is in its 55th year.

“It’s not a beauty contest in the regular sense, where girls parade in bathing suits,” Steineger stressed. “We feel this is a celebration of our heritage. We usually feel that the winner is the one who shows the best knowledge about Norway, a keen interest, and good citizenship all the way around.”

And, indeed, Steineger went on, those who have participated in the competition in past years have reflected that. “We are always amazed about their curiosity about Norway,” even though, she said, “A lot of them haven’t had the opportunity to go to Norway.”

That is something that will be remedied for the winner. Steineger said that NIA presents each Miss Norway with a trip to Norway, to enable them to see “their relatives and the country.”

It’s logical to hold the competition in Brooklyn, Steineger added, given that the borough was the destination of choice for many Norwegians who emigrated to the United States in the last century. Indeed, noted Steineger, about 90 percent of the young women who participate “have roots in Brooklyn,” she said.

While the selection of Miss Norway is the main event, the afternoon also includes the selection of Miss Norwegian Heritage, as well as a pageant of young girls, between the ages of four and 10, who are part of the Little Miss Norway pageant, now in its second year.

For the youngest participants, Steineger said, the event is a way to get them interested in their heritage when they are little. “It’s just for fun, but it makes them aware of their identity,” she emphasized.

Two runners-up for the title of Miss Norway are also selected, Steineger said.

Cost of participating is $50 for Miss Norway Contestants, and $10 for Little Miss Norway participants.

The competition – which includes coffee and a selection of traditional Norwegian cakes – is open to the public.

The cost per person is $30 for adults ($25 for NIA members) and $15 for children over the age of 10, with children under 10 admitted free. The cost of a table for eight is $175, with a Viking Silver Table of eight (including 20 Raffle tickets for the table and choice seating) costing $350 and a Viking Gold Table of eight (including 20 Raffle tickets for the table and premier seating) costing $500.

For further information, or to download an application for the competition, log onto www.niahistory.org.