Viking Fest shines through the rain

POULSBO — Even though State Rep. Sherry Appleton’s request for “the god of rains” to give Little Norway a break during Viking Fest didn’t come true, the weekend showers failed to dampen the spirit of the celebration.

“I think it’s been highly successful,” Viking Fest executive secretary Kathi Foresee said. “It’s been good.”

During Friday’s opening ceremonies at Kvelstad Pavilion, Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said, “Velkommen til Syttende Mai,” welcoming visitors to the 39th annual event.

As part of the cultural celebration of Norwegian Independence Day the traditional Viking Village was erected in Waterfront Park between the Kvelstad Pavilion and the Sons of Norway lodge instead of being spread out between the pavilion and Port of Poulsbo Marina.

“Everything worked out well,” Foresee said. “There weren’t any major problems.”

From the pavilion, the ceremonies moved to the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, which was unveiled to the public for the first time since it closed its doors in March 2005.

Quade had hoped to recognize Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin for spearheading the major renovations to the center’s interior, but in typical Austin fashion, the well-known philanthropist was nowhere to be seen.

After all, there was no volunteer work to be done at the time.

“Bill Austin and his volunteers worked night and day to have something for the public to enjoy,” she said.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Appleton, who helped open the center as a Poulsbo City Councilwoman in the early 1990s and, as a state representative, helped secure the funding needed to bring it back to life.

Perhaps no one has as deep of a connection to the center as Barry Babcock, who worked as a docent at the center for several years.

“I was here on the day it closed its doors,” he said. “Now I’m here to see it reopen.”

Although no marine creatures were on display during the weekend, due to the newness of the concrete tanks, Babcock said the open house was a great start.

“The kids have told us they want the Marine Science Center back,” he said. “We should have it opened by Labor Day.”

The opening day of the three-day event was highlighted by the return of fireworks above Liberty Bay after a two-year hiatus.

“Everyone commented what a nice display it was and how glad they were to see them come back,” Foresee said.

Saturday got off to an early start as runners of all ages gathered at Lions Park for the 29th annual Viking Fest Road Race and the Poulsbo Noon Lions Club heated up the Poulsbo Armory with all-you-can-eat pancakes, eggs, sausages and Sluys Bakery pastries.

Before 11 a.m., Lions were already running to local stores to replenish their supplies due to the large number of hungry festival-goers rushing through the doors.

“Things are going really good,” said event organizer Kevin Hogan. “We’ve already run out of farm-fresh eggs and our special sausages.”

In less than four hours, Hogan estimated that more than 800 people had filled their stomachs before enjoying a full day of Viking Fest joviality.

“The all-you-can-eat was definitely utilized,” he said.

Those who camped out for the Viking Fest parade were rewarded with a menagerie of bands including the Kingston Junior High Cavaliers, drill teams including the Central Market shopping cart drill team and a smattering of royalty as Miss Poulsbo 2007 Alex Duchimen and Miss Viking Fest 2007 Whitney Glebe and her court triumphantly cruised down Front Street.

While the sun held off the rain clouds Saturday, a steady downpour attempted to put a damper on the final day of Viking Fest.

“I think even with the weather, things have been successful,” Foresee said. “A little rain’s not going to stop people.”

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