South Dakota Public Broadcasting Television’s production of

The Regional Emmy� Award, announced at a gala Sept. 24 in Minneapolis, was awarded by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for Historical Documentary. The program earned the Emmy� in competition with television stations in South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota and parts of Nebraska and Wisconsin.

�The Stavig Letters� docu-drama is based on a little-known treasure collected by the descendants of  a Norwegian immigrant to South Dakota. Over more than half a century, between 1881 and 1938, immigrant Lars Stavig, who settled near Sisseton, and his brother, Knut, a farmer/fisherman in Norway, and family members exchanged dozens of letters. Both families kept their letters and these treasures finally came together in the late 20th century to provide a first-hand look at the immigrant experience.

The SDPB Television production premiered in Sisseton in February and statewide on SDPB Television in March.

�This is a major honor for our network and a testament to the great work people at the network do every day,� said Bob Bosse, SDPB director of television. �In the Upper-Midwest Emmy Awards, we compete head to head with some large market, well-funded productions. The Upper Midwest chapter is considered one of the toughest chapters to compete in.�

In �The Stavig Letters,� SDPB Television uses the Stavig family�s letters as a backdrop to the docu-drama that features footage from South Dakota and Norway, as well as hundreds of historic photos that depict the immigrant life as well as life in the old country. The one-hour production is based in part on the readers� theater play created from the letters by Dr. Wayne S. Knutson, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

The letters, video footage, photographs and actors give voice and reality to the immigrant experience from different perspectives. Woven through the letters are the dreams, aspirations, joys and sorrows of the two brothers, one who came to the prairie and one who stayed by the sea. The music for the SDPB Television production includes traditional Scandinavian tunes on the hardanger fiddle, the Norwegian national instrument. The artist, Ingvild Habbestad, has a masters degree in violin performance from the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and an Orchestral Diploma from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.

Narrator Sarah Rasmussen, great great granddaughter of Lars Stavig, is among several family members who worked on the production, most notably John and Jane (great granddaughter) Rasmussen of Sisseton, who assisted with videography and research. John and Jane Rasmussen accepted the Regional Emmy� Award on behalf of the network at the awards gala in Minneapolis.

�The Stavig Letters� is a unique glimpse of South Dakota�s past. The program was produced with the support of a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and with the help and support of the Stavig House Museum in Sisseton, as well as the members of the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

The staff involved with the production includes:

�  James P. Sprecher, Producer/Executive Producer

�  Kyle Mork, Director/Editor

� Kevin Patten, Assistant Producer

� Joel Rische, Videographer

� Saturnino John, Videographer

�  Rex Kinnear, Videographer

� Sarah Rasmussen, Narrator

�  John Rasmussen, Videographer

� Jane Rasmussen, Researcher-Archivist

�  Wayne S. Knutson, Writer

� Paul Ebsen, Production Assistant

The SDPB Television network previously has won Regional Emmy� Awards for �Lost Bird of Wounded Knee,� another historical documentary; �Wild Horses: An American Romance,� a documentary produced in conjunction with Nebraska Educational Television; and �Dakota Pathways: a History,� a 20-part history series used in fourth-grade classrooms in South Dakota. All the productions are available for purchase at or by calling 800-456-0766.

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