By Megan Roessler
These paintings are a few examples of many created to promote the Mount Horeb “Trollway.” During the 1980s, when construction of the bypass Highway 151 began, Mount Horeb residents and local artists like Patricia Edmundson, Lyle Johnson, and Oljanna Cunneen knew that they had to do something to make sure that their historic town would not be forgotten. These artists wanted to bring joy to Mount Horeb to keep local residents happy, while also bringing the joy of Mount Horeb to tourists. The Chamber of Commerce in Mount Horeb decided to bring out the town’s Norwegian-American legacy to bring tourism. Mount Horeb would now be called the “Troll Capital of the World,” with Main Street becoming the “Trollway.”
You can find trolls, and other Norwegian elements all throughout Mount Horeb as depicted on these signs. Trolls, rosemaling, and the Norwegian language itself often make appearances around Mount Horeb. The personalization of the trolls to each business is what makes these trolls special. You have a troll dressed in traditional A&W clothing, a troll wearing glasses, and many other trolls that make Mount Horeb an extraordinary example of the blending of Norwegian-American culture. There is traditional Norwegian imagery throughout the town as well, such as rosemaling and the Norwegian crest so there is some seriousness to being a Norwegian-American town. The trolls are adaptations of their environment and welcome visitors with a warm welcome that is sure to put a smile on your face that one just has to stop and see.
Roadside attractions are a never-ending tradition throughout the United States. Small towns, like Mount Horeb, have been able to remain big names because of roadside attractions. This is great for small towns as it is a way to gain publicity and even economic benefits, allowing them to sometimes build and expand as Mount Horeb has done. Roadside attractions tend to be humors to draw people into see the ridiculousness that they just cannot miss on their way from town to town. However, these very same humorous attractions are also commemorative pieces to the local history, and folklore. In this case, the Mount Horeb trolls commemorate the local history and folklore of its Norwegian history.
It would take talented artists like the ones mentioned earlier to make the Mount Horeb trolls and other Norwegian identities successful. These caricatures of everyday life of locals in Mount Horeb were captured for eternity in these signs and paintings. The creativity is evident in all of the signs, from eyeglasses to hot dogs to the sykehus, local Mount Horeb artists more than succeeded in painting a legacy of Mount Horeb.