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Julefest rings in holiday season

POULSBO — If Norman Rockwell had put brush to canvass to capture a Julefest tradition, Poulsbo would’ve made a fitting subject.

Picturesque in all its holiday decor glory, Little Norway shined of the season Saturday night as residents and visitors gathered to ring in the year’s end with a long-celebrated tradition.

A crowd of all ages — along with several canine pals — filled Waterfront Park near the shores of Liberty Bay, where boats moored at the Port of Poulsbo sat alight in festive adornment. Dozens danced around a tree in the Kvelstad Pavilion.

The evening’s events included the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree, the ceremonial arrival of the Lucia Bride and a visit from the Poulsbo Fire Department’s Santa Claus.

Miss Poulsbo Amy Stadshaug gave power to the lights on the tree after a one-two-three count.

“I don’t know of any community that has as many traditions,” she said, while several youngsters took in her bounad and voluminous white robe with awe.

As the 55th titleholder, Stadshaug said fulfilling the yearly tradition was a significant one for her, especially as it falls within the city government’s centennial year. Combining the spirit of the holiday with the town’s close-knit community ambiance, she said on the list of her highlights during her reign, “this is definitely one of the top.”

The lingering crowd rushed to the rail at the park’s edge to take in the sight of the Lucia Bride coming by boat to the shores.

The torches on the boat reflected off the water, creating a transfixing ceremonial centerpiece.

Michele Wasson, who now directs the Miss Poulsbo/Miss Kitsap scholarship organization, recalled her turn as the Lucia Bride in 1983. She was the second in the festival’s history to have the honor.

“When I was (the Lucia Bride), it was freezing cold, freezing cold,” she said with a laugh, adding, “It’s a great way to welcome Christmas and kick things off.”

Tacoma residents Larry and Candace Heglund, who were visiting relatives in town, said the downtown events are a festive draw. The two enjoyed the Sons of Norway bazaar earlier in the day, along with the shopping and pastries known to be found along Front Street.

“It’s a tradition that a lot of people don’t see,” Larry said of Julefest.

Candace agreed: “I’m so glad they’re keeping the tradition alive.”

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