Cultural events

Scandinavia, which encompasses Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, is a land that brings to mind long winters, saunas and fair-skinned natives. But, the northern European culture is also deeply rooted in the Ballard community.

Viking Days took place July 17 and July 18 at the Nordic Heritage Museum. The festival, now in its 27th year, featured reenactments, Scandinavian food, tables lined with Nordic arts and crafts plastic sets of Viking armor and for the children.

Eric Nelson, CEO of the Nordic Heritage Museum and a third-generation Swede, said the two-day festival is a community event.

“One of the favorite stops is the Taste of Scandinavia,” Nelson said, pointing to a line of women busily producing sugary edibles. “We have a group of volunteers from each of the five countries who all prepare specialty foods. Those are all community members, most of them live in Seattle and help out at the museum.”

While the weekend attraction used to include a broader celebration of Scandinavia, it has since shifted its focus to Viking culture.

Nelson said the festival was particularly pertinent to the Ballard neighborhood.

Photo credit: 
Celina Kareiva

Mary Viker poses with her Norwegian dolls at the 27th annual Viking Days July 17.

For Lori Ann Reinhall and Jim Nelson, Scandinavian culture is an integral part of who they are. Despite growing up thousands of miles away from each other, these grandchildren of Scandinavian immigrants share a love of that culture's music that reconnected them after a quarter of a century.

"It's sort of in our blood, so to speak," Reinhall said.

Growing up in Seattle, Reinhall heard Swedish spoken around the house and studied music, including the old Scandinavian-American cliche – the accordion.

Nelson grew up in Wisconsin. He learned to speak Norwegian at 6 and became a professional musician when he was 14.

When he was young, Nelson's father would take him to the river and teach him how to make willow flutes. He now plays more than a dozen folk instruments, and said it is in his nature to learn instruments and play music.

"The driving force for me has been the phrase, 'Know Thyself,'" Nelson said. "For me, it would be denying myself part of who I am [to not play music]."

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Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

Lori Ann Reinhall and Jim Nelson, who perform Scandinavian folk and troubadour music as Duo Scandinavica, outside Scandinavian Specialties on 15th Avenue Northwest.

Visitors to Ballard on May 17, and there were many of them, could be forgiven for thinking they had been transported to another time and place. Men and women walked Market Street in traditional Scandinavian outfits, waltzes played on an accordion drifted from Bergen Place and Norwegian flags waved from every flag-able surface.

Ballard's annual Syttende Mai celebration took over the neighborhood, starting with crafts and lunch at the Nordic Heritage Museum and culminating in the parade, with its thousands of participants and onlookers.

Ingrid Chamales, who recently moved to Gig Harbor from South Dakota, was checking out the Nordic Heritage Museum with her husband for the first time on May 17.

Her parents are from Norway, and she said she decided to make the trip from Gig Harbor for the festivities because she read about it in a Sons of Norway magazine.

Chamales' husband was disappointed by the lack of lutefisk but said he would be back for the annual lutefisk-eating contest at the Ballard Seafood Fest.

Following are the winners from the 2010 Syttende Mai Parade. Winners may pick up their trophies at Union Bank (formerly Frontier Bank), located at 5602 15th Ave. N.W.

Photo credit: 
Michael Harthorne

Syttende Mai 2010 in Ballard brought out the Norwegian, and smiles, in everyone. CLICK IMAGE FOR MORE PHOTOS.

Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, made an appearance May 8 at the Nordic Heritage Museum for Arctic Summer, a Nordic fashion show that was part of Sweden Week.

The fashion show was a chance for the Nordic Heritage Museum to shine a spotlight on the recent work of designers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

“Design is such an important component of Scandinavian life and culture, and we want to take the opportunity to share that,” Stina Cowan, manager of the event for the museum, said in a press release.

The first-ever Seattle Sweden Week, the brainchild of Swedish Consul to Washington Lars Jonsson, occured from May 2 to May 9. The celebration was organized as a tribute to the long shared history between Seattle and Sweden and to strengthen the current relationships between the two.

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Photo credit: 
Steve Shay

Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria watches Arctic Summer, a Nordic fashion show, May 8 at the Nordic Heritage Museum.

On May 2, the Nordic Heritage Museum will hold its largest fundraiser of the year, the Northern Lights Auktion. This year’s auction and gala will take place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Ballroom in downtown Seattle and is a part of Sweden Week.

The affair will feature a four‐course dinner and live and silent auctions. Items on the block include an Indonesian vacation in a Bali villa, a private dinner and tour of the Washington State Governor’s Mansion with Christine Gregoire, a Norwegian sailing dinghy and more.

“This is a wonderful way to support the mission of the museum and share the Nordic spirit, all the while having a great time”, said Nordic Heritage Museum CEO Eric Nelson. “The auction raises critical funds benefiting the museum’s extensive schedule of programs, events and classes.”

The 25th Annual Nordic Lights Auktion starts at 4:30 p.m. on May 2 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Ballroom, located at 721 Pine St.

The auction is open to the public. Tickets are required and can be purchased for $100 each by calling 206.789.5707 ext. 10.

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Courtesy of Nordic Heritage Museum

The first-ever Seattle Sweden Week, the brainchild of Swedish Consul to Washington Lars Jonsson, kicks of May 2 to pay tribute to the long shared history between Seattle and Sweden and to strengthen the current relationships between the two uniquely similar places.

Sweden Week includes both private and public events, such as a fashion show spotlighting Swedish designers, a VIP dinner recognizing six northwest Nobel laureates, a three-day business conference uniting Swedish and American business leaders, and a celebration of the centennial birthdays of both Swedish Hospital and the Scandinavian Department at the University of Washington.

Jonsson said the two major anniversaries – Swedish Hospital and the U.W. Scandinavian Department – created an appropriate opportunity to tell the story of the strong Swedish presence in Seattle's past.

"It's important to keep your heritage alive," he said.

Jonsson said Scandinavian influence was strong in the formation of Seattle. Nordstrom was founded by a Swedish immigrant and Swedish immigrants put up the money to start Swedish Hospital, he said.

Photo credit: 
Courtesy of

Sweden's Princess Madeleine will be celebrating Sweden Week in Seattle May 2 through May 9.

First major courtyard to be complete by late fall

Seattle Chinese Garden at 6000 16th Ave. SW just at the north side of South Seattle Community College held a site tour and presentation on chinese gardens on April, 10. These free docent-led tours of the Garden are held on the second Saturday of each month, March through October at 10 am. To arrange a special docent-led program or hardhat tour of the construction site for your group of eight or more or call the office (206-764-5219) . Check their website for updates on construction, events, tours, and other programs.

The 4.5-acre garden site, and Song Mei Pavilion are under construction now and progress is being made on the first major courtyard. Plants native to China are now in the SSCC Arboretum. The tour began with a slide presentation on the cultural significance of Chinese Gardens.

The project will be completed in several phases, likely over at least several years, as funding becomes available.

See video
Photo credit: 
Kimberly Robinson

Sandy Marvinney, member of the Board of Directors of the Seattle Chinese Garden stands in the Song Mei Pavilion under construction. This summer, skilled artisans from China will come to complete the work on the project, due to open to the public next fall.

The City of Federal Way is partnering with Highline Community College and State Farm Insurance to present the 1st Annual South King County Latina Women’s Conference on March 27. A variety of community organizations will be on hand to address issues unique to the area’s Latino families and to help improve their access to services and information. The event is offered entirely in Spanish.

Women interested in attending must pre-register for the free conference by contacting Teniel Sabin, Federal Way’s Hispanic community liaison, at 253.835.2613 or The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and lunch will be provided. State Rep. Phyllis Gutíerrez Kenney, chair of the Community & Economic Development & Trade Committee, is the keynote speaker as well as Acting Mexican Consulate Marisela Quijano.

At the conference, women will receive information on finances, nutrition, starting a business, community involvement, domestic violence, leadership and more. The day of education, celebration and fun also will include entertainment and prize drawings.


Norwegian Ladies Chorus Annual Fishcake and Meatball Dinner

Let us tempt you with Norwegian dishes, including gourmet fishcakes,
traditional meatballs with lingonberry sauce, and homemade Norwegian
baked goods and pastries! There will be a no-host bar.

Reservations required. Tickets $25.

Call Arlene at 206.784.1290 for reservations.


Leif Erikson Lodge
2245 N.W. 57th St.

The Dream of America

“The Dream of America” exhibit is an interactive path that traces the journey of a Nordic immigrant from Scandinavia to Ellis Island, and into the American frontier. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors and college students, $4 students K-12, children under 5 free.

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