POULSBO — The return of Viking Fest roused the self-proclaimed “Viking City” in fine fashion last weekend as thousands of residents and visitors flocked to downtown Poulsbo in celebration of Viking Fest’s 50th anniversary.
For many, Viking Fest is first heralded by the metallic roar of carnival rides, punctuated by the gleefully shrill cries of those aboard. The carnival attractions staged at the King Olaf public parking lot are a crowd favorite among those seeking a thrill or to try their luck at the multitude of games of chance.
Wandering downtown, it’s not hard to notice the rows of tents erected along Anderson Parkway, yet still one could smell their presence before they saw them. Vendors and nonprofits alike use the space in the parking area to raise their tents, park their food trucks and assemble their assorted carts. While the numerous nonprofits and local organizations were as varied as the food being sold by the vendors, all appeared to be joined together under the common banner of business. And amongst the tents, carts, food trucks and information booths, business was booming.
The sea of patrons made for a constant ebb at nearly every stall and the sheer volume of fried foods changing hands was enough to prompt one to loosen their belt a notch in anticipation.
At the Austin Kvelstad Pavilion in Poulsbo’s waterfront park, Mayor Becky Erickson welcomed those in attendance during the festival’s opening ceremony. Just north of the pavilion sat the Viking village, also a series of tents, albeit more rudimentary than the aforementioned ones serving funnel cakes and Viking Dogs.
The Vikings therein appeared to be the genuine article, some were clad in traditional nordic dress, others had opted for the more utilitarian chainmail, shield and spear combination. Those manning the tents educated passersby on Viking culture and showcased traditional folk art, crafts and skills, offering a brief insight into the ways of the Viking.
As one Viking handled the tanned pelt of a red fox, he held the article out to a young girl passing by, “It’s really soft,” he said with a smile. But the girl recoiled into her parents, presumably startled at the fact that the pelt still included the fox’s face. The ways of the Viking are not for everyone.
To the south of the pavilion, contestants in the Strong Man Competition dusted their hands liberally with chalk and hefted weights above their heads while the crowd of onlookers shouted words of encouragement. Later the competition saw the men and women donning chest harnesses and pulling a pickup truck along Anderson Parkway.
Meanwhile, back at the Austin Kvelstad Pavilion another competition was taking place, one of an arguably less-athletic nature, but one which was no less entertaining.
Viking Fest’s eating contests are a prominent feature of the celebration, most notably the three-pound donut eating contest and the lutefisk eating contest. The former saw contestants tangling with a beachball-sized donut, known as the King Olaf over the course of 15 minutes. Since nobody has yet managed to finish a whole King Olaf donut, the winner of the contest is determined by whoever can manage to consume the most of their donut before the fifteen minutes are up. This year’s winner was Nate Ensor.
“I couldn’t do it and I probably won’t ever be able to do it,” Ensor said of the King Olaf. “I always come so close but I never can finish it.”
The first round of the lutefisk eating competition, saw competitors taking on a full pound of the lye-cured codfish, the early round weeded out a few of the less-enthusiastic competitors, leaving two seasoned lutefisk-lovers and one newcomer.
Tim Leary, a radio DJ noted before the first round that he had never tried lutefisk before. After the completion of the first round, Leary was wearing the expression of a man who had made a grave mistake, as he watched the organizers place another pound of lutefisk on his plate.
Dave Lambert and Brennan Webster on the other hand were no strangers to the competition and Webster had even been crowned the winner for the previous year’s lutefisk eating competition. Surprisingly Leary came out ahead of Lambert in the second round, leaving only him and the defending champion.
In the end Leary was bested by Webster, who was wearing full Viking regalia and bellowed his victory to the crowd of onlookers.
In all, the 50th anniversary of Viking Fest appeared to be a roaring success by harkening back to Poulsbo’s roots as a small community of Scandinavian immigrants, giving local nonprofits the opportunity to fundraise and generate awareness for their respective causes, all while simultaneously offering to the community a fun-filled weekend of Nordic cheer.