VISTA — One thousand years ago, the Vikings flooded out of Scandinavia into England, France, Russia and Germany, spreading fear and bloodshed in their wake. On Sept. 27 and Sept. 28, the Vikings made it as far as Vista, but all they spread was a good time at the two-day Viking Festival at Norway Hall.
It was a tunics-optional event with most of the attendees dressed in 10th century Scandinavian garb. Players from three re-enactment groups put on displays of fighting, smithing, baking and axe-throwing. Inside the Hall proper, chefs baked Lefsa, the traditional flatbread, while weavers spun and sewed in a vintage style. Musicians played near a well-stocked mead and beer garden while young event-goers enjoyed the Kids’ Zone with its castle-shaped bounce house and myriad activities.
Later on, burly men tossed heavy logs and others flung dead fish — historic Scandinavian pastimes, but, by all accounts, no less popular in modern times. There was even a flaming axe toss.
The festival began five years ago as the principal fundraiser for the Hall, founded in the 1950s by Norwegian immigrants, and home to lodges of two heritage-based fraternal groups: The Sons of Norway and the Norwegian Fish Club Odin. The idea was a success from the start with 1,000 attendees by the second year and an estimated 2,500 this year.
“Vikings somehow have a draw,” event co-coordinator Dobrila Undheim said explaining the festival’s motif. “In Hollywood and everywhere, there’s just something romantic about Vikings, I guess.”
Festival organizer Robert Undheim stressed the importance of the event not just fiscally but in keeping the lodge vibrant and attractive to new members.
“This festival is what helps to keep this building going,” he said. “In today’s economy, it’s tough for a lot of heritage-based organizations to keep going … As the Norge Lodge and Norwegian Fish Club go through their years of either increasing or diminishing membership, this festival is the main contributor to keeping these doors open.”
The Viking Festival was not just a Norwegian-flavored party. It was also an opportunity for attendees to relive and propagate the culture of an interesting historical period.
“I split all my re-enactment time between the Romans and 16th century German,” re-enactor Jay Kienle said. “With this, I get to split the difference almost. I learn so much.”
“It’s important that people see that Norway had a lot of crafts,” weaver Laurel Beale said. “It’s not only Vikings,” she added with a laugh. Beale said that the event allowed her to showcase her work and occasionally draw people into a weaving group.
For more information on the Viking Festival or Norway Hall, contact Robert Undheim at (760) 630-4428 or visit www.norwayhall.org.