NORWAY, Mich. (WJMN) – A yearly staple in Norway since the 1990s, the Leif Erikson Day festival returned this past weekend with a full slate of Nordic-themed activities. The annual festival is held concurrently to the nationally-observed Leif Erikson Day, first recognized nationally by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and ties in the celebration with Norway’s early Scandinavian immigrant roots.
“There are a lot of people of Scandinavian heritage in our area, and so it kind of made sense that we celebrate Leif Erikson day. And Leif Erikson was a Viking, so we’ve really focused on that and Viking heritage in this festival, which is very unique,” said Nancy Sundstrom, Leif Erikson Planning Committee Member and Leif’s Run Race Director. “You will not find that, I don’t think, anywhere else in the area, maybe even the state or the country.”
Festivities began on with a quilt show hosted by the Saintly Stitchers Craft Guild at the Norway Covenant Church in lead-up to the full list of events on Saturday.
“It’s a collection of everything that we have done since the last quilt show,” said Marilyn Caylor, Chairman of the Quilt Show. “We are very proud of what we do. It’s not that we want to brag or boast, but we want to show that if we can do it, so can a whole bunch of other people.”
On Saturday, a full slate of activities for kids, ‘Taste of Norway’ food vendors, a craft sale, blacksmithing demonstrations, and farmer’s market were held downtown. New events this year included a fine art show downtown and a Titanic exhibit at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum.
“I think what I enjoy most is just the gathering of all the people and how vibrant the downtown is,” said Leif Erikson Planning Committee Member Carol Sundstrom. “It’s a tradition. People dress like Vikings celebrating the the Scandinavian heritage of the area. I mean, it was a melting pot, but that was a strong influence here. So I think my favorite thing is just seeing all the people coming together for this.”
Viking reenactors from a group called Shire of Skerjystrond set up a camp on Main Street, holding a day full of activities including combat demonstrations, food samples, and other artifacts and demonstrations.
“I love getting to meet new people, and sharing with them what we love to do, which is recreate history,” said Victoria Walters, the Seneschal of the Shire of Skerjystrond “Getting people sparked in history and their interest in history. And being able to show them that there’s a way to recreate it in a way that’s fun, in a lot of ways that are interesting to them.”
A parade, led by children and pets in Viking costumes and Viking reenactors was held mid-afternoon. Wagon rides were held around downtown and bus trips brought visitors out to tour the Sturgeon Falls Power Dam. A free concert was performed by the Marquette-based group ‘The DayDreamers’.
In the leadup to the parade, the ‘Friend of Norway’ title was awarded to Greg Hunt. Taylor Adams was crowned Miss Norway, while Tyler Paris was named Norse King.
Later in the day, a Viking Dinner was held at Holy Spirit Catholic School as part of a ‘night of the Vikings’ event, followed by a ceremonial funeral procession at Strawberry Lake.
On Sunday, the annual Leif’s Run race returned, revamped with professional timing done by Superior Timing. The race course was changed for the first time this year to mirror that of the Norway Spring Classic race.