Area residents are in for a real treat as I have learned Vija Zalitis Hamilton, a multifaceted artist, is returning to Williston for a short visit in early June while some of her artwork will be featured at the James Memorial Art Center from June 2-28.

All this happens thanks to the kindness shown by local residents a very long time ago.

This is a unique opportunity to view the works of this talented artist, and you don’t want to miss out.

You see, while the art may be unique, the story as to how this featured work has come to be proves to be very interesting.

One has to go back a period of time when Vija first arrived in Williston along with her parents and brother Elmer Zalitis, along with 33 others individuals who were at that time listed as “Displaced Persons.”

Before I go further, I should note that the late 1940s and early 1950s was a period of time when millions fled their homeland in Eastern Europe, including the countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.


These countries were invaded by the Communists, and the refugees were then given the tag as being “Displaced Persons.”

The individuals fled for their political safety and religious freedoms.

I was told it was a period of time between 1949 and 1951 when 37 Latvians arrived in Williston, taken in by members of First Lutheran, who reached out to these refugees.

That is then how Vija, Elmer and her parents found a new life in Williston.


Coming from Latvia between 1949 and 1951, these new residents were sponsored and taken in by First Lutheran Church of Williston, along with assistance from the Lutheran World Federation.

Vija went on to graduate from Williston High School with the class of 1955 and was able to carve out a stellar career in art.

Today, this talented individual, who got her start in Williston, devotes her creative talent to drawing, painting, printmaking and fine art miniatures, along with making original note cards.

Her works are now held in numerous private collections.


Following graduation from Williston High School, Vija earned a B.A. degree in fine art and world history at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

She went on to earn an M.A. degree in art at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz.

That was followed by her working as an art specialist for 31 years, while she shared her expertise and appreciation of art in several public schools in Minnesota and Southern Nevada.

Over the years, Vija has participated in more than 200 local, national and international exhibitions and has won numerous awards in juried shows.


After all that, you will now have an opportunity to view the fine works of this talented lady.

“Soul-ly Acrylics” will be the featured display over at The James beginning on Sunday.

Along with the exhibit, you will also have an opportunity to meet and welcome home the featured artist at a reception sponsored by The James.

A reception will feature Vija and is open to the public from 4-6 p.m. June 5 at The James, which is located at 621 1st Ave. W.

To pin down that location for new folks in town, I can tell you the facility is located next door to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.


Some folks might recall that Elmer Zalitis worked at the Coast-to-Coast store in Williston from his early arrival in America.

Jake and Lloyd Sandvik put Elmer to work in the back room/freight and delivery area.

Elmer was unable to speak English, but he presented a great smile.

According to Carol Sandvik, Elmer must have worked at Coast-to-Coast/True Value for more than 40 years for the Sandvik family.

Both Elmer and his wife Muriel, who worked at the Ben Franklin store, are deceased.


Vija, according to Carol, has always kept in touch with the Sandvik family.

Over the years, the Sandviks have visited with her a few times in Las Vegas, where Vija and her husband reside.

Former high school classmates of Vija, including LeRoy Anseth and Jeanne Sundet-Olson, are but a couple that are “very excited,” to once again visit with Vija and see her artwork.

I understand there are still a few members at Williston First Lutheran Church who remember bringing these individuals into the community.

This came at a period of time under the leadership of the Rev. Casper B. Nervig, along with the Trustees of First Lutheran Church.


It just goes to show you what doing good works can lead to.

If it hadn’t been for these gracious folks who welcomed Vija and her family to this town, I wouldn’t be in a position to pass along this story.

Perhaps the day will come 50 years from now, of another story of this nature that sprouted wings after being welcomed here for the oil boom.

For now, I encourage you to venture out and take in this exhibit, and if all possible drop by and welcome Vija back home.

No doubt she will be excited, but at the same time, a little nervous after being away from here for a long period of time.

A warm greeting from local folks will put her at ease right from the start.

After all, it’s the Williston way.


Just last week I told you about an upcoming street fair being planned for downtown Williston from June 5-9.

Well folks, I’m sorry to have to tell you that event isn’t going to happen, at least for now.

Apparently, a state law (Chapter 53-05) that came to light restricts folks from having another fair within a 30-day time period of a county fair.

While times have changed, no doubt this is one law that should be looked at.

Back then perhaps there was a need to protect the county fair.

Now, if folks want to hold an event, you can bet most of those folks will be more than ready to have more fun, but a few days later.

For now, you will have to wait and see if the Downtowners Association will reschedule the street fair for a later date.

But don’t worry, there are still plenty of activities to keep you on the run.


One thing you can do is make plans to attend the Upper Missouri Valley Fair.

The Williams County Fair is set for June 26-30 and promises to be a good time.

Organizers have worked hard to earn your support and this is a great way to say thanks to them for all their hard work as volunteers.


Another great event is just around the corner, as with May being National Beef Month, the good folks over at American State Bank & Trust Co., along with the District 9 Cattlewomen and Prairie Packing of Williston are teaming up for the annual Burger Bonanza.

That means free hamburgers and beverages will be served up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot directly behind the main location of ASBT in downtown Williston.

Perhaps this will help to make up for the street fair that has been called off.

It’s not every day you can sit down and enjoy free burgers.

At the same time I join in sending out a Scope Salute to the area beef producers.


On Sunday, you will have an opportunity to attend a musical concert presented by the current Miss North Dakota Rosie Sauvageau set for 3 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church Chapel.

Rosie is a 2010 graduate of Concordia College and began playing the piano by ear at the age of two, while she started taking lessons at the age of 5.

In addition, she is a vocalist and plays piano, cello, guitar, clarinet and accordion.

Now how’s that for a wide variety of instruments?

This talented young lady has been an accompanist at her home church since the age of 11 and has taken more than 16 years of classical piano lessons.

She has recorded one full-length album and one EP of original compositions.


Currently she is working on a musical.

Go figure!

Before being crowned as Miss North Dakota back in June of 2012, she was an accompanist and musical director for North Dakota State University’s musical theatre department.

While competing for Miss America, she was a talent winner back in January and also earned the non-finalist high talent score.

The public is invited to attend what promises to be an exciting concert.

There will be a free-will offering taken during this event.


Another event you just might want to check out is the Miss North Dakota Outstanding Teen/Youth Pageant set for this Saturday at the Williston High School Auditorium.

With a theme, “We are Family!” this seems very appropriate for the 20th annual production.

Competition begins as early as 2 p.m. for the younger contestants, while the older entries take to the stage at 7 p.m.

Special guest for the pageant will be the reigning Miss ND Outstanding Teen Kaylee Seven of Williston.

Tina (Domagala) Larson, former Miss ND Teen and Miss ND finalist, along with Seven, will MC the events.

For more info you can call Allen or Lavina Domagala, who have been serving as directors of this program for a long period of time.

I send out a Scope Salute to all of the folks who have been involved for 20 years to make this event successful.


I told you there are plenty of things to keep you running.

Along with the art reception set for June 5, that leads right up to the opening night of the 2013 Miss North Dakota Pageant set for June 6-8 at the Williston High School Auditorium.

There have been a lot of good folks seeing to it all the bases are covered to keep this grand event in Williston.

Featuring a theme “Don’t Stop Believin,” you will have an opportunity to join in the fun each and every night.

Community support is most important and the entertainment value of this event is second to none.

For ticket information, contact the Williston Convention & Visitors Bureau at 774-9041.

Until we chat again, that should be enough events to keep you involved in community activities.

At the same time, if you have an interest and are willing to volunteer, there’s always room for more helping hands.

The others can use their hands for applause, which serves as a way of saying thanks as well.

Kvamme can be reached at