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Viking Cup kicks into its 20th year

POULSBO — Two weeks after Viking Fest, the area’s biggest soccer tournament of the year will grace the green fields of Little Norway and the North End.

Viking Cup, in its 20th year, will bring more than 2,000 kids from all different age groups and regions to participate in a four-day event that raises money to help subsidize soccer for kids in North Kitsap.

Tournament Director Hans Gehlhaar — whose involvement in the event has spanned the cup’s 20-year history, from on-site manager to referee — has never formally been in charge of the event before. But he said the Memorial Day tournament will stay within its traditional practices.

“The tournament is for the kids,” Gehlhaar said. “My joy is when the tournament is going on and you see all these kids playing soccer.”

In all, about 120 teams will be playing at five facilities in North Kitsap, including Strawberry Field, North Kitsap High School, Poulsbo Junior High School, Kingston Junior High School and Wolfle Elementary School. NKHS will once again provide the center for operations and Gehlhaar was quick to give the North Kitsap School District kudos for the use of all the playing sites involved.

“(The district) has been absolutely great in supplying the fields for us,” he said.

The tournament is divided into age groups, from boys and girls ages 11 and younger to 19 and younger. Cup play for the weekend will begin Saturday, except for a few local teams in the area that are facing each other Friday.

“It comes out as an advantage for the local teams,” Gehlhaar said of playing one day early, due to the fact North Kitsap teams will then have games spread out more evenly over the weekend, giving them ample time to rest.

The business impact on Poulsbo and the North End has also been substantial thus far, commented Gehlhaar. Hotels from Kingston to Bremerton have been booked for months by teams coming into town from as far as Oregon and British Columbia.

“We’ve even got a couple of teams that are looking at staying in Edmonds,” he commented.

The tournament’s logo has always changed each year, with a design contest preceding the event.

This year’s winner, Craig Gracey, beat out 35 other designs from students at NKHS, PJH, KJH and the Northwest College of Art. Gracey, an eighth grade student at Poulsbo Junior High School, won both the first and second place prizes for design.

Gehlhaar reminisced about Viking Cup’s 20th year, stating its success dates back to who he said were the founders of Viking Cup — as well as the growth of soccer in North Kitsap — Tim and Maxine Burns.

“If anyone could put a finger on who is responsible for starting soccer in this area, it’s probably the Burns family,” Gehlhaar said. “They’ve been a powerhouse here.”

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