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Viking Fest carnival: Olaf lots it is

POULSBO -- Viking Fest has found a home, but it may be evicted after just one year.

The May celebration, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, will be split between Poulsbo's Anderson Parkway and King Olaf lot. The Viking encampment and non-profit and arts and crafts booths will remain by the waterfront while the carnival will be relocated to the Front Street parking lot next to Martha & Mary.

The decision was made by Poulsbo's City Council Wednesday night in a 5-1 vote that ends a months-long, heated discussion between the Viking Fest Corporation and Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association. The association represents downtown business owners who expressed frustration at the carnival's size, use of parking spaces and general atmosphere. The carnival was previously located on Anderson Parkway.

The Community Services Committee has served as mediator for the debate since July, and made its recommendation for the King Olaf relocation last month.

Council Member Connie LordÂ’s was the lone dissenting vote on the matter, citing worries that noise and security issues could cause trouble for residents of Martha & Mary, a nursing home and rehabilitation center.

She also questioned whether the carnival's presence in downtown is appropriate. She would like to see more of an emphasis on the event's Norwegian heritage, she said.

The carnival's downtown presence is "like we have an elephant in the living room," she said.

Despite those concerns, the council moved forward. Martha & Mary executives have given the city an affirmative nod to try the carnival in the King Olaf parking lot for the year.

And "try" proved to be the theme of the night, as many councilmembers agreed the solution may not be final, but it's the best option currently available.

Council Member Linda Berry-Maraist said she's proud the event provides a good time for children and is an attractive amenity for visitors.

"I think that there's been so much discussion about this that we need to try and move on," she said. "The carnival of Viking Fest is just fun. It is inconvenient, but it's a tremendous asset."

Council Member Dale Rudolph agreed.

"We finally found something that the two major parties can agree on, so I say try it," he said.

While the topic may be off the table for just one year, the present pause in what has been drawn-out debate was a welcome one for Viking Fest planners.

Organization president Ron Krell said while the solution isn't perfect, he's ready to hit the ground running, especially since there are additional impacts and expenses due to the partial move.

After this year's festival, the city will review how the relocation worked and then decide whether or not the King Olaf solution is one that will continue.

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