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A different fall Leif festival

Norway ready to celebrate Scandinavian heritage

LEIF ERIKSON FESTIVAL committee members Carol Sundstrom, Martin Straka and John Sundstrom prepare the Viking ship for the annual festival parade. The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday on Main Street in Norway. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

NORWAY — Norway once again will celebrate its Scandinavian heritage this weekend with the annual Leif Erikson Festival.

Local business owners came up with the event 26 years ago to honor their ancient Viking history.

“It has expanded tremendously over the years — especially in the last seven,” festival committee member Carol Sundstrom said. “We strive to add unique things that no other festival has done before.”

Wallace Sundstrom of Norway was the first to portray the Norse explorer for the festival. “My father played the role for three to four years before his passing,” Sundstrom said. “Since that time, my brother, John, took over the duties and continues the family tradition.”

The three-day event kicks off at the Jake Menghini Museum on O’Dill Drive in Norway with the art show from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Friday. The late Lorraine Campbell will be honored as featured artist this year. The exhibition will continue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students 12 and younger.

The festivities resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Norway.

Viking combat demonstrations will begin at 11 a.m. in front of the band shell on the 900 block of Main Street.

“These re-enactors come from Marquette,” Sundstrom said. “They will set up a camp and share their history and a glimpse into Viking life.”

The kids think this is the “coolest thing,” Sundstrom said, particularly the sword battles.

The local classic rock duo of Norton and Chartier will entertain the crowd from noon to 2:30 p.m. on the band shell stage.

Miss Norway will be crowned at 2:45 p.m., also at the band shell, followed by the announcement of the Friend of Norway.

Parade participants can begin lining up at 1 p.m. on north Main Street next to the Knight Owl Sports Bar and Grill. The parade will step off just after, Sundstrom said.

Festivities will continue throughout the city after the parade.

Everyone can enjoy the Taste of Norway food booths and local restaurants, blacksmithing demonstrations, and wagon rides up and down Main Street until 2 p.m. Crafters, artists and vendors will have their merchandise for sale at several indoor and outdoor locations. They will also have fall produce available, including pumpkins.

Many local businesses will have featured specials, Sundstrom added.

The children’s activities this year will include making your own Viking costume. “Kids will be able to take part in putting together their own attire and then wear it in the parade,” Sundstrom said

In addition, the event will have the inflatable jumper, pony rides and mini petting zoo for the children.

Highlights of the evening activities include the Night of the Viking dinner, torchlight parade and Viking burial and funeral pyre reenactment.

The dinner will be served at 6 p.m. at Holy Spirit School in Norway. Guests will enjoy a multi-course Viking dinner, along with a Viking saga entertainment. Tickets are available at Northern Interstate Bank of Norway, Swedish Passport and Norway City Hall.

The evening concludes with the torchlight parade at 8:15 p.m. around Strawberry Lake, leading into the Viking burial and funeral pyre boat burning. The parade is free to all who want to take part in this ceremonial walk. Participants should meet at Knights Kingdom and are asked to bring a flashlight. Everyone is welcome.

“The visual of all the lights stretched along the path as everyone walks to Viking boat is just beautiful,” Sundstrom said. “This event concludes in the dramatic launching of a fiery funeral ship on the lake.”

Sunday continues with the Breakfast Fit for a Viking from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mike’s on Main in Norway.

The Leif’s Run 5k and 10k competitive runs and two-mile fun/run walk begins at 10 a.m. from Marion Park on Highway 8. To download an advance registration entry form, go to www.leiferiksonfest.com.

Donations from the Curtis J. Brackett Memorial Fund and Norway’s Downtown Development Association help make the festival possible.

“We are excited about the fest and are even looking forward to next year to be even bigger,” Sundstrom said.

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