MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — About half a million Minnesotans have Swedish roots. But some don’t know much about the country and its heritage.
Swedish public television picked up the idea and turned it into a hugely popular reality show. It’s called “Allt för Sverige”, the translated title is “All for Sweden”. The show’s creators immerse Swedish Americans in the culture through challenges and obstacles. And a Minneapolis woman came home with more than the price.
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Sally Franson has a story that many Minnesotans can relate to: she has Scandinavian roots.
“The fact that I was Swedish always stuck in my head, partly because I look Swedish, I live in Minnesota,” she said.
It was a causal link until last fall. A friend suggested she apply for a popular Swedish show that immerses Swedish descendants in their homeland.
Franson, a published novelist and English teacher at Macalester, made the cut.
“The joke with the production team was that they love filming Americans because if you put a Swede on a reality show and say ‘What was that experience?’ they’re like, ‘Oh, good,’ and you ask an American…and they’re like, ‘Oh my God,’ they’re like laughing, crying.”
And boy, did she go through all the emotions as she faced one Swedish challenge after another.
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“I had to do orienteering in the woods, a very Swedish activity,” Franson said. “I had to memorize 30 Swedish songs in 30 minutes and tell the show host when they became a hit, I was actually pretty good at that one.”
She was one of the best candidates. After months of challenges, she was one of two grand prize winners.
As a reward, the producers found his distant parents.
“I walk around the hedge and see 15 people who all look like me waving Swedish flags and opening their arms to hug me,” Franson said. “I mean, that’s joy, that’s what joy is, and I’ll never forget that feeling.”
There was no prize money at stake, but Franson said the payout was huge.
“I had the opportunity of a lifetime, which not only gave me this great adventure, but brought me back to myself in a way that I never understood how deep it would be for me until until it happens to me,” she said.
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The show ended in December, but the finale just aired. Since her trip, Franson has become quite close to her new family.