Viking warriors didn't wear horns on their helmets and they didn't use human skulls as cups.
Visitors to the fifth annual Norway Day at the Thurston County Fairgrounds on Saturday can learn actual facts about Vikings, eat Scandinavian treats, and admire Norwegian horses and dogs.
It’s a chance for people to immerse themselves in Scandinavian culture for a few hours and for Scandinavians to celebrate their heritage.
“We felt there was a real need for a Scandinavian festival in our area because of all the Scandinavians living here,” said Linda Fialkowski, event co-chairwoman and daughter of a Norwegian-born father.
“Everyone wants to hear the music of their youth or to have a connection to their heritage. When we have a festival, people come.”
The festival has grown from a cultural get-together that attracted about 50 participants its first year at an American Legion hall, to a regional event drawing more than 1,000 people to the fairgrounds, said Fialkowski, president of the Sons of Norway, Hovestad Lodge, in Olympia.
“It’s always the third Saturday in April,” Fialkowski said. “People are making it a destination, they’re putting it on their calendars year to year.”
The event initially focused on Norway because it’s sponsored by the Olympia lodges of the Sons of Norway and Daughters of Norway.
But Fialkowski said the festival has begun to consider an array of Scandinavian vendors and performers. Much of Swedish and Danish culture overlap with that of Norway.
Space, however, is limited in the fairground facility they’re using. The festival is getting so big, organizers are wondering whether they’ll have to find a bigger venue. This year, the festival had to turn away four prospective vendors.
“Right now we’re bursting at the seams with just our Norwegian things,” she said. “Our goal is to make it Scandinavian and encompass more of the other Scandinavian countries.”
Yet organizers hope to attract an even bigger crowd this year at the fairgrounds. And, she said, visitors will have fun, even if they’re not Scandinavian.
“It’s certainly for everyone, anyone who wants a little more information about Norway.”
Here are key attractions:
A cafe will feature popular homemade Norwegian fare: hotdogs wrapped in lefse, pea soup, jarlsberg cheese, gjetost cheese, an array of Norwegian cookies, and rice cream topped with whipped cream, almonds and lingonberries. Early diners can see two “kransekake” for sale. That’s a labor-intensive cake made of 18 tiers decorated with icing.
If your knowledge of Vikings is limited to credit card commercials and Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” re-enactors with “Vikings Northwest” can set you straight. They will be outfitted in their best Nordic duds and chain mail, wielding weapons, and chatting about the real lives of the ancient warriors.
They’re sticklers for authenticity. “Everything has to be sewn by hand, nothing on machine. They make combs out of bone, and file it down to make the tines all by hand,” Fialkowski said.
“When people think about Vikings, they think about raiders,” she said. Instead, “they were very much traders. They lived in communities.”
And forget about the contemporary image of horns sticking out of helmets. In battle, such horns would have put the warriors at an unwieldy disadvantage, she said.
“The horns didn’t appear till the Wagner operas, and that just caught on. It is not a true Viking thing.”
Kids will enjoy seeing dogs from the Puget Sound Norwegian Elkhound Association. Sometimes still used to pull sleds, elkhounds are one of the world’s most ancient breeds. They worked as hunting dogs for the Vikings. Fjord horses from Strawberry Hill Fjords should be a crowdpleaser. The stocky, surefooted horses trace their lineage to Norway.
The event includes 18 vendors hawking items from handknit woolens to antiques to drinking horns. Among the vendors are Olympia author Astrid Karlsen Scott, who writes on Norwegian cooking and culture; Roy artist Sharon Aamodt Dexter, whose art is inspired by Scandinavia; and Paul Anderson, who crafts Scandinavian bentwood boxes.
Scandinavian musicians from throughout Washington as well as from Portland will perform. Several acts will play the accordion, a trio performs on five Swedish instruments, and one musician plays the Norwegian hardanger fiddle.
Debby Abe: 253-597-8694, firstname.lastname@example.org