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Couple celebrates triumph over odds at Viking Fest

Sandra Gabe-Grainer and Robert Grainer are planning to tie the knot viking style on Friday during Viking Fest. - Leila Arciero / Staff Photo
Sandra Gabe-Grainer and Robert Grainer are planning to tie the knot viking style on Friday during Viking Fest.
— image credit: Leila Arciero / Staff Photo

POULSBO — Sandra Gabe-Grainer and Robert Grainer have planned their viking wedding for a year, even when chances seemed slim Robert would make it to the altar.

In December of 2009, Robert Grainer suffered three heart attacks followed by pneumonia and influenza — a convergence of illness that caused his body to begin shutting down. The Indianola couple decided to solidify their relationship by marrying in the Intensive Care Unit at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton in January. Then, after being told four times by doctors his chances of survival were poor, Grainer miraculously began to recover.

With his health on the mend, the Grainers, who are members of the Glamfolk — a society of re-enactors dedicated to the viking age — have rekindled their dream of a viking-style wedding. They’ll celebrate their union surrounded by Viking Fest revelers at the Kvelstad Pavilion in Poulsbo on Friday evening. For them, the festival will provide the ideal backdrop for their nuptials.

“(Robert’s) going to be up there with oxygen. He’s going to be up there with a walker,” Sandra Gabe-Grainer said. “But we wanted to do our viking wedding.”

The Grainers’ ceremony will be the first wedding celebration in the 42-year history of Viking Fest, the annual celebration of Poulsbo’s Scandinavian heritage. Viking Fest begins Friday and continues through Sunday.

During wedding ceremony, the couple will take a ceremonial drink from a Viking horn, a jump over a broom — symbolizing crossing this threshold into new territory, and walk back from the ceremony under an archway of crossed Viking swords — meant to ensure the couples safe transition to their new life. Robert Grainer will also give Sandra Gabe-Grainer the keys to the homestead — making her the lady of the house. There will even be a longship wedding cake.

“One of my goals in the hospital was to be able to stand up and hold up a sword for my wedding,” Robert Grainer said.

Me & The Boys, a band that bills itself as “country pop,” will relinquish the stage for the 20-minute traditional viking ceremony.

Though the viking wedding is a first, the standbys that keep festival-goers coming will fill the weekend.

Road runners, aspiring chefs and those who can tolerate (and consume in mass quantities) lutefisk can all find events tailored to their agendas. The fun begins at 4 p.m., Friday, May 14, with food and craft booths and live entertainment.

On Saturday, pancake lovers can savor the Noon Lions’ fare at the annual pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. while watching the runners get their groove on for the Viking Fest road race. The race is from 9-11 a.m., with distances and dashes for all members of the family. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Ushering in over 90 Norwegian parade participants this year as Grand Marshal is Bree Schaaf of Bremerton, who placed fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in women’s bobsledding. Schaaf has competed in bobsledding and skeleton since 2007 and was named 2009 Women’s Bobsled Rookie of the Year. The parade starts at 2 p.m.

The carnival will be in the King Olav parking lot. Pre-sale wristbands for unlimited rides are on sale at Viking Bank on Highway 305 through 4 p.m. Friday or while supplies last. Wristbands are $18.

Making a triumphant return after a year sabbatical is Viking Fest’s Iron Chef competition. There will be two competitions — one on Saturday for amateurs and one on Sunday for professionals — both taking place in Liberty Bay Park. The deadline to turn in the entry application is Friday.

Viking Idol also is making a comeback this year. Envy Bar and Grill on Viking Avenue will host the event at 10 p.m. Friday. Sign ups begin at 8 p.m.

The top three finalists will receive prizes valued at more than $300. The two finalists will also get a 15-minute set at Viking Fest on May 16 from 1:30 to 2 p.m.

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