TR Robertson An overcast Saturday and a little misty weather did not stop thousands of people from attending the 21st Annual Vista Viking Festival at their new location, the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum located on 2040 N. Santa Fe. Avenue behind Guajome Park Academy. The Vista Viking Festival location was in a large flat portion of the grounds just north of all the different facilities at the Museum. The much larger space, bigger than the former area by the Sons of Norway Hall on N. Santa Fe Ave., not only provided more room for all of the vendors and activities for the Viking Festival, but also provided a much larger parking area, even though by mid-day there were so many attending parking did extend beyond the parking lot up N. Santa Fe Ave. James Jerpseth, President of the Vista Sons of Norway, was ecstatic about the new location and said he thought the Saturday attendance would exceed last years Saturday attendance of 6,500. He also said the Events Coordinator of the Antique Gas & Steam Museum, Niana Coyle, was extremely cooperative and great to work with when planning this event. James said all of the festival tents and different activity locations were assembled beginning Tuesday of the recent week with around 200 Sons of Norway and 75 Norwegian Fish Club Volunteers working long hours to set up the festival. The Daughters of Norway also had a large tent with numerous activities for visitors. Speaking of visitors, one activity to do at the Viking Festival is people watch as many attendees come dressed in amazing outfits trying to bring out their Viking aura. Some are very unusual and a little strange. Many get the dress-up wrong as they dress more medieval or “knightish”, wrong dates. Vikings were around 790-1066 AD, Medieval and knights 1400-1500, and Viking dress was fairly simply, even their battle wear. Oh well, having fun is the name of the game for the festival and many of the outfits are amazing.
Photos by BR Robertson
Arriving early, Brian and I wandered the grounds to get a lay of the land for all of the tents and activities that made up the Viking Festival. Entering the new location, we noticed there was a large parking area located next to the festival. Vista Viking 2023 Festival clothing was on sale just past the ticket entrance. Going through the main entrance to the festival grounds there was a map picturing all of the different vendors, food booths, sports fields and other activities that would be in full swing once the festival started. We walked past the location of all the food booths to see what was offered. President Jerpseth said they intentionally only allowed food booths that were each selling different food items so patrons would have different selections of food and drinks to choose from. Patrons would purchase $1.00 tickets at tent locations just inside the entrance to the festival and turn these tickets in to pay for food or drink. Most people were purchasing tickets in groups of $20 or more.
Close to this area was a photo opportunity for individuals and families to be pictured with a Viking ship cut-out and donate money to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, an organization supported by the Sons of Norway. We also had a chance to speak with Past President of the Sons of Norway, Tim Undheim (Thor), who was welcoming visitors to the festival.
We passed tents set up for Twisted Horn Mead, Arcana Brewing, North County Homebrewers Association, Raging Cider & Mead, Barrel & Stave, Mediocrity and Prohibition Company Brewing. The food booths visitors could choose from were Frigg’n God Flatbread, Elixir Patrons coffees and teas, House of Norway specializing in Lefse, Viking Grill with the famous Berserkeg Dog, the Viking Kitchen with many selections like the Valkyrie Feast of Swedish meatballs and Double berry shortcake, Kai’s Meat Pies to select from Beer or Lamb or Curry Chicken or Sausage Rolls, Hawaiian Beach Ice, Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Breakfast Burritos and Nordic Ice. So much to choose from you could just go to the festival to eat and eat some more. There was also a table for tasting Viking Spirits from the Scandinavian countries.
A large, covered tent area across from the food and drink booths was set up for tables and chairs to eat at or you could go to the Entertainment tent (Songrbryggja) to listen to a variety of groups performing or watch different contests. The first group to perform was Damekor, a traditional Norwegian Women’s Choir. This would be followed by the introduction of the Viking Queen and her court, Storytelling by True Thomas the Storyteller, a Beard Competition, and throughout the afternoon and evening performances by the Silk Button Butchers, Blindfold Monks and Highland Way. When Vista Viking Festival 2023 Queen Claire Jarvis was introduced to the crowd she reminded everyone to “have fun and pillage a little”.
Surrounding the outside edges of the festival were tents and Viking encampments set up to allow visitors to feel as if they have stepped back in time to the 10th century. These included Drafn, House Vinland, Celtic Norse, Red Hand, Wolvesav Odin, Vesterfolk and Wolf & Serpent. These groups wore authentic clothing and had implements to go along with their encampment. There were also several Rune Quest sites where kids could take part in a variety of games and contests. A Rare Mettle Custom Silversmith group was working on making knives and other items. The Medieval Fighting Club had a large area where a variety of items were on sale like leather goods, swords, gloves and other handmade goods. There was also a Society for Creative Anachronism tent where visitors could learn about the Drafn Fighting Unit.
Just passed some of the Viking Village tents was a Weapons Range area (Vapnhus) where you could try your hand at either ax throwing, spear throwing or bow and arrow shooting. Face Painting was popular with the kids as was speaking with the builders of the large Viking ship built to scale and proudly unveiling its large sail. The Sleipnir was built by Tom Kottmeir and Ivar Schonmeyr and is completely seaworthy. We also spoke for a while with Scott Tower of the Brewing Monks of Croneburg as he demonstrated beer malting and information about their beer, mead and cider making. In the Daughters of Norway tent there were demonstrations of Rosemaling, Norse Lodge Knitters and Fiber Folks making various items, a Genealogy table and a variety of dolls, ornaments, decorations, painted wooden and carved wood items and much more. (www.daughtersofnorway.com)
Some of the vendors visitors could visit and purchase a variety of items. These included The Tempting Tarts Bakery, The Surly Herbalist, Swift Hammer Leather, Phoenix and Crow Jewelry, Wildschwein Grooming Company, Northman Traders clothing, Valkyrie Mailleworks, Simply Bivin Design headgear, Ghetto Crafts, Wild Vines Woodworking and many more. Horns and mugs of every shape and size were available as well as a multitude of leather goods. Cash and cards were accepted at these vendors.
One of the most popular activities to watch at the Viking Festival took place in the Sports/Combat large arena (Holmgangustada). This area was controlled by the International Highland Games Federation where contestants, male and female, completed in a variety of strength contests to select participants that would move on to participate in the 2024 World Games in Norway. Saturday was the men’s competitions and Sunday was the female competition. Seating surrounded part of the arena where visitors could watch the contests. These games included throwing 45 lbs. stones for distance, overhead stone press of 200 lbs. stones, and log tossing. These feats of strength were contested by a number of individuals after a formal introduction and ceremony opened the event. PR Director for the Vista Viking Festival, James Nelson-Lukas aka Kvasir, spoke with me about how much better this location was as it allowed a much large arena to be built for the competitions and a chance to bring in the Highland Games. Later in the day, some other participants would take part in a kids and adult fish fling, a Battle Cry, flaming ax throwing and armored combat demonstrations would take place in the arena.
The Vista Viking Festival is a great event for people of all ages. If you missed it, put it on your calendar for next year. Go to www.vistavikingfestival.com for more information.