Viking Fest returns, builds bridges between Poulsbo newcomers and residents

POULSBO — As a newcomer to Washington, Henry Bellany found the close community links he's looking for during this year's Viking Fest parade.

Around 60 entrants performed at the parade on Saturday. Entrants' background and their relationship with the city, famous for its Norwegian heritage, were introduced when showing up on Front Street. The crowd cheered and clapped with excitement.

That amazed Bellany, impressed at how supportive and proud a community could be for those who have Poulsbo roots.

"There's the quarterback group, there's the yacht group, there's this and that ... I love that," Bellany said. "It felt like getting the Wikipedia page of Poulsbo."

After two years of cancellations, Viking Fest was back. Participants packed the streets on and around Front Street to enjoy the live performances, street dances, vendors and sunny weekend weather for the annual celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day, officially May 17.

More: Poulsbo’s Viking Fest set to draw the hordes this weekend

Events continued through the day Sunday, marking a tradition that has become a time for visitors to enjoy the city's community spirit with longtime residents.

Originally from Austin, 31-year-old Bellany, who is a transgender man, decided to leave Texas for Washington because the Evergreen State is more accepting and relaxed, he said.

"As an outsider, it's so comforting to see like, wow, there is this very strong sense of community," Bellany said. "Where it seems like you came in, and you've got the right attitude, and you're able to survive."

Also, the Viking costumes were super cute, Bellany added.

Music flowed under the sunshine at the Waterfront Park on Liberty Bay. Families, friends, kids and dogs laid down on the grass at the park to enjoy the sunny weather.

Christina Deung, 31, and her 4-year-old daughter, Ari, of Lacey in Thurston County visited her uncle, Toby Schultz, for the event.

They ordered cotton candy and ice cream and found a space at the park to enjoy the food and the water view after the parade.

"It's perfect. Look at the water. Beautiful!" Schultz said, adding that it's been nice seeing people around again after two years of COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's great," said Christina Deung, who attended Viking Fest for the first time.

Ari enjoyed the little kids' ride at the event, Christina said. The only disappointment may have been the popularity of face painting, where the line was long.

"I do want to paint my face, but everybody is still there," Ari said.

The event also created an opportunity for the community to show support to those who have suffered from war in Ukraine.

Read more: This Bainbridge High grad didn't flee when war broke out in Ukraine. Here's his story

Originally from Cherkasy in central Ukraine, Natalia Burkut arrived in Poulsbo two weeks ago. Burkut was in Russia when the war began in late February. She decided to leave the area and ended up staying in a guest house provided by her friend, John Larson of Poulsbo.

Setting up a table at a spot of Larson's friend, Burkut made around 20 wooden door signs, all handcrafted and painted by Burkut, for sale in order to support her relatives and friends who are still in Ukraine and her life after fleeing the war-torn country, she said.

Natalia Burkut, from Ukraine, right, and her friend John Larson of Poulsbo, left, sell handcrafted door signs at Viking Fest in Poulsbo to support Burkut's relatives and friends who are still in Ukraine.
Natalia Burkut, from Ukraine, right, and her friend John Larson of Poulsbo, left, sell handcrafted door signs at Viking Fest in Poulsbo to support Burkut's relatives and friends who are still in Ukraine.

Burkut designed the Scandinavia-style door signs based on her experience traveling to the peninsula, she said.

"It's a Viking festival, you know, so I decided to make something more about like Scandinavian culture," Burkut said.

Some people stopped at Burkut's table, bought the door signs and asked if Burkut can make customized items, she said. Some were there just to donate.

"I was surprised that so many people care and they want to help. And this is great," Burkut said.

Reach breaking news reporter Peiyu Lin at or on Twitter @peiyulintw.

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This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Viking Fest 2022 parade, festival kicks off in Poulsbo