Mary Klimesh, owner of Java John’s Coffee House, 400 W. Water Street, Decorah, shows her appreciation to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum by offering a $10 discount to the first 25 memberships sold during the museum's Norwegian Christmas Weekend. (Submitted photo)
Mary Klimesh, owner of Java John’s Coffee House, 400 W. Water Street, Decorah, shows her appreciation to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum by offering a $10 discount to the first 25 memberships sold during the museum's Norwegian Christmas Weekend. (Submitted photo)
Mary Klimesh, owner of Java John's Coffee House, 400 W. Water Street, Decorah, wanted to show her appreciation to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum for all that she feels it brings to the area, both culturally and economically-and she's come up with a novel way to do it.

During the museum's weekend Norwegian Christmas celebration, Dec. 1 and 2, the first 25 people who mention Java John's and become members of the museum at any level at all­, will get $10 off the price of that membership, courtesy of the coffee house.

"I think the museum is a jewel, so important to the cultural life and economic health of this town," Klimesh explains. "It's common to see people wearing 'I've Been to Vesterheim' stickers here at Java John's and in other restaurants and stores up and down the street. . . people taking classes, attending events, checking out exhibits."

The museum brings in about $5 million to the area economy each year.

"More people need to become Vesterheim members who aren't," Klimesh says, "not just to show their appreciation for everything the museum does, but more importantly, to enjoy everything it has to offer. Hopefully this promotion will give folks a little nudge to check it out."

Among other benefits, Vesterheim members always enjoy free admission to the museum, discounts on classes and most items in the Museum Store, and the exciting, full-color "Vesterheim" magazine, filled with in-depth articles and beautiful photographs, which is mailed to members twice a year.

"The economic impact of Vesterheim is significant, but it isn't necessarily the most valuable way we benefit from the museum," Klimesh adds. "Think of all the remarkable programming for our area school kids for instance." Vesterheim conducts programs through area schools for third and fourth graders, and a "Barnetimen" children's hour for preschoolers, all free of charge. There's a summer youth theater program, too. "Barnetimen" and the summer theater program are partnerships with ArtHaus/Upstart Crow Theatreworks.

A recent Vesterheim tour to northern Norway and Sweden highlighting the culture of the Sámi was perhaps the most meaningful way Vesterheim has touched Klimesh personally. "There aren't enough superlatives to describe it," she says. "It was fabulous, a trip of a lifetime . . . enriching, educational, a nice blend of activities, enthusiastic guides . . . ."

In fact, it was her experience on that tour that led her to choose Vesterheim's weekend Christmas celebration as the time to conduct the Java John's Vesterheim membership promotion. "The museum's new Sámi exhibition opens that weekend, and that's a connection close to my heart now," she explains. "You can come celebrate the holidays Norwegian-style, check out a new exhibition about the meeting of two fascinating native cultures, and become a museum member all at the same time!"

When you visit the museum's Main Building Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2, just go up to the membership table in the lobby and say that you'd like to take advantage of the Java John's membership promotion. There are five annual membership levels to choose from: Associate Member, $35; Senior Member (65 and over), $30; Family, (two adults at the same address and all children under 18), $50; Senior Family, $40; and International member (for those living outside the United States), $60. Java John's will pay $10 toward membership at any of these levels for the first 25 people who sign up during the weekend.

"Once a member, you'll be able to come back again and again for free, get great discounts at the Museum Store-that's especially handy during the holidays-and receive "Vesterheim" magazine, which alone is worth the price of a basic membership," Klimesh says.

Vesterheim Executive Director Steve Johnson explains that the museum would not be able to function without generous community support.

"What is special about the way Java John's has decided to give is that it helps others enjoy everything we have to offer our members as well," he adds. "Please drop by Java John's, enjoy a great cup of coffee, and be sure to thank Mary for this ingenious idea."

With over 24,000 artifacts and an Open Air Division of 12 historic buildings, Vesterheim is a national treasure showcases the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, and explores the American immigrant experience. By sharing this cultural legacy Vesterheim seeks to inspire people of all backgrounds to celebrate tradition.

Come for holiday festivals, special group tours or any time. Open all year. Group tours are welcome. For more information on membership, the museum's Norwegian Christmas celebration, or the exhibition "The Sámi Reindeer People of Alaska," call 563-382-9681,or visit the museum's website at vesterheim.org.