POULSBO — Carnival rides, eating contests and horned helmets aside, Viking Fest is a celebration of cultural and historical significance to Norway’s descendants in Kitsap County.
Viking Fest celebrates Norway’s Constitution Day — May 17, 1814 — when Norway declared itself an independent kingdom (it had been united with Denmark and, after the Napoleonic Wars, was trying to fend off being ceded to Sweden).
“When I was growing up, I’d see pictures of my mother as a little girl [in Wisconsin] and my mother talked about this special day — people dressed up and waving flags,” said Hildur Gleason of Poulsbo, whose father and maternal grandparents immigrated from Norway.
“It was a time to be proud of our heritage — a fun, celebration kind of day.”
Poulsbo’s celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day — or Syttende Mai, for May 17 — is younger than celebrations elsewhere. But it’s no less fun and celebratory.
Viking Fest is May 20-22 this year. Concurrently, the 68th annual Armed Forces Day Parade takes place on May 21 in Bremerton, arguably the navy-est city west of Annapolis. If you time it right, you can enjoy the Armed Forces Day Parade and get back to Poulsbo in time for the Viking Fest Parade.
The 48th annual Viking Fest celebration opens at noon May 20 on Anderson Parkway and Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park; the opening ceremony is from 4-4:30 p.m.
Visit with Viking reenactors in the Viking Village and with Coast Salish artists at the Suquamish Arts & Crafts booth. Live entertainment includes the Sons of Norway Men’s Chorus, Sons of Norway Leikarringen Dancers, a shield wall demonstration, and music by Budapest West followed by Sweet T & Justice.
On May 21, the day begins at 7:30 a.m. with the 39th annual Viking Fest Road Race. The Sons of Norway Lodge hosts a Scandinavian Luncheon and a membership-drive Beer Garden. The entertainment lineup: Poulsbo Elementary Marimba Group, Country Cloggers, Kate Hart, In Motion Dance Studio, Leikarringen Dancers, Kitsap Children’s Musical Theater, Selah Korah, and Crosswing.
Marina Rockinger of Star 101.5 FM is the grand marshal of the 47th annual Viking Fest Parade, 2-4 p.m.
May 22 is big on contests and competition: the Viking Tour Bike Race (5, 35, and 65 miles), begins at 8 a.m.; VolksSporters Walking Club’s 5K and 10K Fun Walk, 9 a.m.; Lutefisk-Eating Contest, 11 a.m.; Donut-Eating Contest, noon; Viking Strongman Competition, 1 p.m.; Viking Paddle (1-Mile), 2 p.m.; Viking Paddle (5-mile), 3 p.m.; Message in a Bottle Race, 4 p.m.
Sorry, no oyster-eating contest this year. Warmer waters reportedly affected the oysters’ growth, according to Viking Fest coordinator Kathy Foresee.
Hopefully, you won’t have to compete for a parking space. Vehicles with disability placards can be parked at the Edward Jones Investment Offices, 19032 Jensen Way NE, or across the street in front of the old city hall.
Parking is available in the City Hall parking lot and at the former police station at 367 NE Hostmark St. On May 21, you may park at the North Kitsap High School and ride the shuttle bus to downtown ($2 roundtrip charge for those older than 5). You can also park that day at the Gateway Fellowship Church or First Lutheran Church lots for a suggested $5 donation.
So, have fun at Viking Fest. Enjoy the festival food and the carnival rides (maybe not in that order). But Gleason hopes festival-goers take some time to remember the hardships and sacrifices of the forebears. To her, that’s what Syttende Mai is about.
“Times were hard [in Norway]. The people who left the old country wanted to come to this land of opportunity. They wanted to better themselves. But they had that longing to maintain their ties to their culture. Syttende Mai reminded them of their identity.”
ARMED FORCES DAY
According to local officials, Bremerton’s Armed Forces Day Parade is the longest-running Armed Forces Day parade in the U.S. and is officially recognized by the Department of Defense.
This year’s parade grand marshal is Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was appointed to the position on May 27, 2015. He is the 35th commander since the fleet was established in February 1941 with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. sharp, followed by a Heroes Barbecue that provides a free hot dog, chips and soda to all active-duty, reserve, retired and veteran service personnel.
The parade’s annual attendance is 25,000 to 40,000 people from all over Western Washington. Entries come from as far away as Oregon and Spokane to participate in this event.
The parade includes representatives of all branches of the military, as well as police and firefighters, youth organizations, dignitaries, businesses, car clubs and more. For more information, see the special section that will be published in Kitsap Weekly on May 20.