Little Norway Festival has arrived

Skol! This year's Little Norway Festival kicks off today with over fifty festivities to choose from including new events, entertainment, and around 70 street vendors.

Petersburg -nicknamed "Alaska's Little Norway"- traces its Norwegian foundation back to the late 1800s. Petersburg's Little Norway Festival, first held back in 1958, coincides with May 17, Norway's Constitution Day.

Although the festival has changed with the times, visitors can taste traditional Norwegian foods, watch traditional dances, and see children running through the streets of downtown Petersburg wearing bunads -traditional Norwegian clothes- as the town celebrates its Norwegian heritage.

Local Vikings and Valkyries clad in fur pelts and horned helmets energetically roam the festivities.

Festival happenings launched earlier this week with opportunities to explore Kupreanof Island, see art shows, or learn to make traditional Norwegian treats.

But Chamber of Commerce Event Director Mindy Lopez said, "Thursday's our kickoff, getting everyone excited and ready to go..." especially with the annual pageant on Main Street this evening at 5 where Norwegian Dancers will perform in their bunads, the Norwegian American of the year is announced, and the winner of the $500 raffle is revealed.

Dragkamp -Norwegian for "tug-of-war"- will immediately follow the pageant.

Teams of 10 members will participate in the first test of strength of the weekend, pulling a retired ferry mooring line as they compete for bragging rights and their own viking horn stein cup.

"People love it. It is a hit, and it's a great way to kick off our Little Norway," said Lopez.

After the tug-of-war, Seattle-based band the Staxx Brothers will perform live for the Little Norway Festival street dance until Thursday's scheduled festivities wrap up at 9 p.m.

The band's sets on Thursday and Friday are new to the roster this year and promise a lively performance.

This year could be the biggest Little Norway Festival in recent memory, so to make room, the planning committee asks that cars are not parked in the festival area downtown. There will be road closures from Thursday night through Saturday for the jam-packed weekend of vendors, events and activities.

Main Street and beyond will be lined with over 70 vendors -some new, some returning.

"It's going to be down Main Street [and] some side streets, so it will just extend further," Lopez said.

There will be informational booths as well as vendors selling food, art and homemade items.

"There's quite a bit of food this year, which is great. I feel like it keeps growing in the food vendor area," said Lopez.

Festival-goers will have plenty of options like classic fry bread, popcorn, lemonade, grilled fish and rice, crawfish, loaded baked potatoes, and more. "There's gonna be a little more variety this year," said Lopez.

According to the festival schedule, "concessions and craft booths galore" can be found downtown on Friday until 5 p.m.

That is when the Temsco helicopter will fly above with the American flag and flag of Norway to kick off the annual parade through downtown Petersburg, which anyone can join.

"Definitely come for the parade. The parade is pretty awesome. Lots of people come down for that," Lopez recommended.

"Everybody gets this like ... buildup of excitement," festival organizer Ambre Burrell added. "Everybody's downtown, you get to see people that are in town ... and then the parade happens. And then it's, the little kids are playing [Viking] games in the streets ... and the Vikings do their shrimp feed ... and bring in their iceberg ... it's just a lot of ... happy, excited energy."

"Thursday's our kickoff, getting everyone excited and ready to go. And then Friday, once the kids are definitely out of school, and people are off work, the parade kind of just sets the tone for the evening and Saturday, all day Saturday," said Lopez.

Following the parade on Main Street, partners of all ages can participate in an annual herring toss, dig into the Viking shrimp feed, and listen to music performances for the rest of the evening.

The festival continues on Saturday. "Saturday is jam-packed full," said Lopez. "Almost every half-hour, there's something downtown in front of the stage happening ... so that's a lot of fun."

"If you have children ... your Saturday morning gets to start bright and early at the Harbormaster shack with the fishing derby," Burrell said.

For the Lil' Fisk Derby, an annual activity for young anglers, a crowd of usually around 100 kids gather at the docks at 10 a.m. and fish with poles. Every kid gets a prize at the end, and there are special prizes for the biggest fish or most unique catch.

Afterwards, the day is "basically packed with events after another," said Lopez.

Beer gardens, races, food, and tests of strength await festival-goers to watch or compete in.

One of a few new additions to this year's festivities includes a fish holding contest. Participants entered in the Petersburg Humane Association first annual fish holding contest will compete to see who can hold the fish the longest. The fish is not alive, but the winner can take it home along with a $100 prize. "That's gonna be a fun one," said Lopez.

Otherwise, the planning committee says there will be festival "classics" including Guns and Hoses, where the police and fire departments race to pull emergency vehicles to the finish line, the Fisk-O-Rama, to see "two huge halibuts" get professionally fletched, the Jormungandr strongman-style sled pull, grocery cart races, and cornhole.

There will also be a pet show on the main stage, and Sons of Norway Hall will have Norwegian food sampling.

"Everyone has something that's their favorite thing," said Burrell. "Everybody has something that they like, and if they don't like it, then ... there's something else to do."

The weekend wraps up at Sandy Beach on Sunday for the Rotary Club seafood bake and barbecue, when the final drawings are made for the raffles -the proceeds from which help pay for the band, advertisements, and other festival funds.

Details on the full schedule of events can be found on pages 6 and 7 of this edition and on the Little Norway Festival webpage


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