Drenched, blustery Yul Fest warms spirits

POULSBO — It may have been an omen when the typically “picture perfect” Miss Poulsbo Jeana Ostheller showed up looking a bit frazzled with her umbrella turned inside-out. Ostheller’s smile revealed that she was none the worse for wear though as she nestled in her fur cape for protection against fierce winds and bone-chilling rain.

Despite the worst event weather in recent memory, the Sons of Norway’s Yul Fest braved Saturday night’s storm, indicating that not even Mother Nature’s wrath can dictate schedules in Poulsbo. The nasty spell had about 80 spectators huddling together for warmth at Kvelstad Pavilion and almost kept the traditional — but soaking wet — Yul Log from firing.

“Well, we’ll have to carry on,” Grace Overby of the Sons of Norway remarked as the wind threatened to whip a straw Christmas goat or “Julebukk” from her grasp. Her husband, Stan, took up a wise position behind the crowd and with this “wind block” in place, struggled to keep warm even with his jacket, hat, gloves and blanket.

Others in attendance were having a rough time with the biting “kald” as well, and even before the Kitsap Christmas Carolers took the stage, volunteer Vern Herrick was finding himself engulfed in a plastic bag he eventually got under control and used to rainproof the electrical equipment.

“You haven’t got a wind break have you?” Herrick asked with a smile.

Although there was some static on the speaker system, the show went on with Dr. Roy “Graybeard” Johnson explaining the Scandinavian heritage behind everything from the Nisse (elf) and Saint Lucia to the Julenek (sheaf of oats) and the Julebukk.

When asked whether the Sons of Norway Vikings would be taking their usual boat route across Liberty Bay to deliver this year’s Lucia Bride Lauren Patterson, Herrick shook his head before answering, “We’re smarter than that... then again we’re out here in this weather.”

The fur-clad, torch-bearing group did arrive though and as if taking their cue from the U.S. Postal Service, the Vikings let neither “vind” nor “regn” nor dark of “nat” keep them from their appointed rendezvous with the Lucia Bride. Patterson, 14, was joined by her seven-year-old sister, Hanna, at the Poulsbo wharf and made the long journey through a rain swept Waterfront Park to join the crowd at the pavilion and eventually the fire pit.

According to Johnson, Patterson’s trans-Liberty Bay journey was canceled because a “sea sick” Lucia would have put a damper on the festivities — and things were damp enough as they were.

So much so that the Yul Log didn’t catch on St. Lucia’s first try and it actually required all the Viking torches to set the traditional blaze aglow.

“They had the fire pit covered with a tarp but when they took it off everything got soaked. Water was running off the logs — I’m surprised they got it lit,” said event promoter Mary Graves.

“The Sons of Norway held onto their tradition this year, and they held fast,” explained Graves, adding that even though the harsh weather had cut attendance at Yul Fest from the typical crowd of 500 to less than a 100, organizers decided to push forward.

She credited the crowds for ignoring the elements and Herrick for just being such an everyday soldier and an outstanding volunteer in the community.

“Vern is absolutely the mainstay of that group,” Graves said. “He has been there forever. He’s always positive and the guy does everything.”

Well, almost everything.

Of course, there’s not much Herrick really could have done about the weather.

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