My wife and I just returned from a journey to Minot, North Dakota, where we set up for the seventeenth annual Norsk Høstfest ON 1–4 October, 2014. We were invited up by Tim Jorgensen to be part of the Viking Village. It was a long, exhausting and rushed trip. Certainly if I go again, I will be taking more time and make it a more leisurely trip. Driving 18 hours a day, setting up and being on stage for four days and then turning around to drive 18 hours home is hardly my idea of a vacation!
It was a very pleasurable event. Large and important, it featured singers such as Merle Haggard and was advertised on a billboard as far away as Bismarck. The building set aside for the Viking Village was a bit off from the main hall so there was not much pass through on the first day or two. Then measures were taken by Tim and others to bring attention to us, and the attendance did increase.
The MoP—the participants at the Fest—seemed to be doing things from a grim determination to do justice to their Scandinavian roots, not to have fun but rather just to experience things. Many people, when I went to the main hall, seemed to be walking around with an intent frown on their faces. Fortunately, those who came over to the Viking Village were—or became—much more cordial and smiling. Those who came by were very knowledgeable, asked intelligent questions and did not ask the usual foolish tourist questions. While the fest itself was filled with the usual travel please, Scandinavian kitsch and food (but no herring 🙂 ), intermingled with some stunning artwork and other goods.
The Viking Village was designed, apparently, to be a sideshow that the attendees could enjoy. The fair wanted there to be as many “Vikings” as possible, and accuracy took a very back seat. There were no authenticity regs and no sort of a jury.
There were, to be certain, some very incredible artisans: Woodcarvers, moneyers, metalworkers, beard makes and weavers—and also Telge Glima, a Swedish gaming troupe, and a Jomviking combat group. In addition, there were people selling books, gaming boards, horns and much else. This was the first Viking Age event for some participants, so costumes, accoutrements and the like were not always exemplary. Some interpretations of Norse dress—if interpretations they were and not merely fantastical imaginings—were incredibly dubious. There were some attempts at Viking shoes, but nearly none were turnshoes; one attempt was a modern suede boot with fake fur attached to it!
Interestingly enough, the MoPs we talked to apparently understood how farby some were, and they talked enthusiastically about what we were attempting to do. Julie wrote about one experience:
“On the first day of Høstfest (Wednesday), I was wearing my new grey wool hangeroc and walking in one of the many halls for shopping and one merchant who sewed traditional costumes for dolls came out to greet me and pointed to the top row where there was a doll in a blue hangeroc. She said, ‘I’m still refining the pattern—” I think she wanted to make her doll costume look more like mine! We had a discussion about my tortoise broaches, and how they were not buttons. On the last day, Saturday. she came to find me in the Viking Village because she wanted to get another look and to take pictures. We had a happy conversation, and she took pictures of how the broach was attached. I had Folo take a picture of the two of us because I liked that she wanted to get it right. She then had Folo take a picture with her camera. The whole conversation was very satisfying.”
But the participants were friendly, and some presentations were incredible and seemed to attract a lot of attention. They included Jay Haavik, a master woodcarver, who did carving for a recent Oseberg ship; the great folk from Telge Glima; Dawson Lewis, a coin moneyer; Cameron Christian-Weir, an arrowmaker; Pedro Bedard; a metal worker and horn carver; Wendy Speary, who cooked; Rita Nauman, a fiber dyer; Elspeth McBain, a weaver; Craig, a lathe worker; Alysa Harron, a beadmaker; Phil Lacher, a woodworker; Doug Swenson, a blacksmith; and a group from the Sons of Norway. For many, it was their first Viking Age event! Some started out doors, but inclement—cold and wet—drove them all indoors!
In the end, I would like to thank Tim for inviting us and for working so hard in a difficult job! And I want to thank those people who I met and who did very admirable jobs. If we are invited to attend again, I think that I will go. I had a lot of fun, and only the event’s great distance gives any sort of a real downswing to the event! On the whole, it was a very good experience, and I encourage that anyone who is interested in Scandinavian culture to attend and to have an enjoyable time!
Revision: Dawson points out thi was the thirty-seventh Høstfest; the literature I quoted said seventeen, but I had heard the 37 as well and will willingly admit I chose the wrong one. 😦