Viking Fest still on city council’s radar

POULSBO — Viking Fest may be over for the year, but when it comes to Poulsbo’s annual Norwegian celebration, the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t seem to apply. After years of quiet grumbling, business owners will have a chance to publicly voice their opinions on it and the downtown presence of other festivals in a Poulsbo Community Services Committee meeting slated for 4 p.m. July 11 at the Sons of Norway Viking Room.

Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern said the committee will talk to Viking Fest representatives and downtown merchants about whether to relocate the carnival, which Stern said draws “non-shoppers” and takes over limited parking during a critical spring weekend.

The meeting will offer a chance for people to give recommendations as well as express frustrations, Stern said.

“There’s going to be a conversation,” he said. “We’ll sort through it all, provide a sounding board.”

Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association President Glenn Anderson said the meeting will provide a chance for people to learn more about the issue.

“People want to hear what the city has to say about Viking Fest and what Viking Fest has to say about the city,” he said. “They are interested, this affects them.”

The transformation of Viking Fest from an historical celebration of Norwegian to a commercial venture is part of the rising problem, Poulsbo City Councilman Mike Regis said.

“It’s lost its hometown atmosphere,” he said. “Non-profits were the original vendors at Viking Fest, and the biggest thing they did was play music… Yes, it attracts people, it leaves money behind, but it’s lost something.”

Regis said downtown retail and restaurant establishments are being forced to compete with outside vendors who come for the festival then pack up and leave. Even with the extra public attention, downtown businesses aren’t benefitting from increased traffic, he said. One option could potentially be to split the celebration from the carnival, which could be moved to a location with more parking.

Leo Fried, owner of Blue Heron Jewelry, said while most business owners don’t appreciate Viking Fest, he doesn’t mind it.

“It’s an opportunity to bring people to Poulsbo,” Fried said. “Even if they don’t buy from us, there are people who discover us and come back. I can put up with one weekend of it.”

A record attendance at a recent HDPA gathering caused the Poulsbo Community Services Committee to schedule the meeting in the Sons of Norway Viking Room instead of its regular venue at the Poulsbo City Council Chambers on Jensen Way.

“That turnout tells us that there are some real community concerns,” Stern said. “The Third of July allowed it all to bubble to the surface.”

Recently added to the meeting’s agenda is a review of Mike McLaughlin and Sandra Peterson’s performance as Third of July organizers. Stern said it will discuss, in part, what he believes to be a relatively radical transportation plan.

Viking Fest Executive Vice President Kathi Foresee said she could not comment on what she expects from the meeting, but will be in attendance.

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