Viking Fest: Lutefisk champ chomps to victory

Eric Perkins of Kingston (left) is the lucky first place winner of the annual lutefisk eating contest at Viking Fest this year. Charles Jensen of Des Moines (right) came in second. - leila Arciero / Staff Photo
Eric Perkins of Kingston (left) is the lucky first place winner of the annual lutefisk eating contest at Viking Fest this year. Charles Jensen of Des Moines (right) came in second.
— image credit: leila Arciero / Staff Photo


POULSBO — Eric Perkins of Kingston enjoyed a bittersweet victory Sunday after out-eating five competitors during Viking Fest's annual Lutefisk eating contest.

The sweet being the first place finish, the bitter being that eating two pounds of the whitefish soaked in lye — considered a delicacy by Norwegian standards — left him hungry. He and second place winner, Charles Jensen of Des Moines, made plans to set aside their nine-year rivalry long enough to get burgers to fill their tummies, said Perkins, a 17-year veteran of the fish-gorging fest.

“It’s just about being here every year. Really, I come here for Charles,” Perkins said.

Nearly 30,000 people filtered through downtown’s streets last weekend, partaking in the 42nd annual Viking Fest. The festival celebrates Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17, and gives festival-goers the opportunity to get in touch with Poulsbo’s Norwegian roots.

“We had more people than we ever had before,” Viking Fest president Ron Krell said of overall festival attendance.

The lutefisk eating contest is one of Viking Fest’s draws. While the onlookers cheer on the competitors, some competitors wish they were onlookers.

Third-place finisher Maggie Baker of Poulsbo said she’ll have to think long and hard about entering the contest again.

Competitor Jake Keith, who was visiting from Kodiak, Alaska, was strong-armed into competing by his uncle. His stomach will never be the same.

“It was a good experience and now I know never to eat it again,” Keith said.

The contest judges — Miss Viking Fest Carson Smallbeck and princesses Jaycee McQuade and Kelsey Moss — partook in a sample. While Smallbeck had no qualms swallowing down the lutefisk, the delicacy wasn’t so much fun for the princesses.

The festivities began Saturday with the 33rd annual Viking Fest Road Race, offering a five-mile and one-mile race and kids’ dashes. The overall men’s trophy winner for the five-mile race was Jim Savage of Bainbridge Island. Kristen Lawrence of Bremerton won the women’s race.

For the one-mile race, the overall trophy winners were Brendan Kennedy of Poulsbo for the men’s and Kelly Nash of Kingston for the women’s. The full results can be viewed at

Judges for the 41st annual Viking Fest parade, the weekend’s largest draw, offered up awards to their favorite entries. Judges’ Choice went to Poulsbo Place, while the Director’s Award went to Valley Nursery.

First place for middle school band went to Explorer Middle School, while North Kitsap High took top honors for the high school category.

The specialty drill award went to Central Market while the youth speciality drill award went to the North Kitsap Cheerleaders and Mimi Cheer.

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful celebration in a small town,” Krell said.

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