With the 52nd edition of Viking Fest occurring May 20-22 for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the turnout is expected to be large as Poulsbo revives some of its traditions.
“Our whole board is so excited,” Viking Fest Corp. president Kathi Foresee said. “We’re working our tails off to make sure everything is in place and back on. I’ve been told to expect it to be very crowded the whole weekend. I think people are wanting to get out more, and they are intelligent enough to be careful. At this stage, after two years we’ve all learned what to do.”
The three-day festival begins on a Friday, and many events will be familiar to those who’ve gone in the past. Carnival rides and games will be back along with a street fair full of food and art vendors. Foresee said they lost a few vendors but gained some new ones. Live music will also be performed.
Perhaps the most popular event is the Viking Fest parade, which will be Saturday afternoon. The route runs through downtown Poulsbo and includes local organizations and businesses. Foresee said some city councilmembers will be in the parade for the first time in the event’s history, along with other local figures like Sen. Christine Rolfes, Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson and Poulsbo police chief Ron Harding.
A new addition to Viking Fest is a street dance Saturday night from 7:30 to 10 p.m. with a DJ playing music at the corner of Jensen and Front Street. Poulsbo used to hold a street dance back when the city celebrated 100 years, and it slowly went away after that. Foresee said community members had been advocating for its return.
“The DJ is going to be able to play whatever anybody wants,” she said. “If he has it he can play it. We’ve never done a street dance. If it turns out the way I think it’s going to turn out, then it may be a new tradition for Viking Fest; a back-from-COVID tradition.”
There will also be a road race around downtown Saturday morning put on by Poulsbo Parks and Recreation, and a Viking Tour bike ride Sunday morning put on by Poulsbo Rotary Club. The Viking Village will be making appearances throughout the weekend.
While most events are returning, there are a few that have been put on hold, Foresee said. Viking Fest will not be putting on the Strong Man Competition as it will be held elsewhere and separate from the event. The artwork competition will also not be held. Due to lingering COVID concerns for food, the lutefisk and donut-eating contest are not occurring as well. Foresee said they will look at bringing those events back next year.
VFC has about 15 people helping to set up the event, including board and committee members along with volunteers. Foresee said the Kingston High School football team will be helping with fencing and electrical set-up in turn for a donation from VFC for team needs.
“We try to utilize groups like that to do things where we can make a contribution to them,” she said.
Even without Viking Fest being held the last few years, VFC still gave out scholarships to local youth. Foresee said the plan this year is to give out four $1,000 scholarships to local high school seniors. She wants to give out more if possible.
“The average of what we give out is $8,000 in scholarships,” she said. “We want to give back.”
Viking Fest started as simply a community fair downtown that was put on by various organizations initially until VFC was formed. VFC is a volunteer organization, and members are not paid. This is Foresee’s 27th year with the organization, taking over as president a few years ago.
“The purpose of Viking Fest is to celebrate the Norwegian heritage for Constitution Day and to put on a festival for the community,” she said.