Bay Ridge celebrated like Scandinavians on May 14 and 15 with back-to-back events from the northern European bloc.
The weekend kicked off on Saturday with Viking Fest, where Bay Ridgeites donned their most realistic Viking costumes for a day of medieval-themed activities at Owl’s Head Park. Events included a scavenger hunt, middle eastern dancing, a performance from the Clann Eireann Pipers and, of course, an appearance from Bay Ridge’s favorite Swedish Meatball, “Eceltic Ellen” Lindstromon on accordion.
The neighborhood’s staple Scandinavian event, the Norwegian Day Parade (also known as the 17th of May Parade), was held the following day on May 15. That march’s triumphant return after a pandemic-related pause, saw hundreds of hundreds of parade-goers dressed in the traditional colors of Norway — red, white and blue — hit the pavement on Third Avenue.
The annual event commemorates the day the Norwegian Constitution was signed, and pays homage to southern Brooklyn’s rich Scandinavian and Norwegian history.
The parade is held annually on the Sunday closest to May 17, and following its two-year hiatus, this year fittingly honored first responders, essential workers and those lost to COVID-19.
“It was a great weekend,” said Arlene Rutuelo, president and chair of the Norwegian-American 17th of May Committee of Greater New York, Inc, which sponsors the parade each year. “To restart a parade again, there’s a lot of mechanics that go into getting things started again — especially in terms of enthusiasm. But it was absolutely wonderful.”
Rutuelo even went as far as to estimate that this was one of the biggest parades yet.“We had probably more people march this year than ever before,” she said.” “It was just a fantastic parade, I can’t be happier.”
The Norwegian holiday is celebrated across the world but Bay Ridge’s event is known to be among the largest, and holds special significance — much of the borough was settled by Norwegian immigrants, so the day doubles as a celebration of the area’s history.
The parade head also gave kudos to the city’s Police Department, who she said did a “fantastic” job keeping the parade in control, as well as protests and other activities that were taking place nearby.
As for the event’s precursor, Rutuelo said, “Viking Fest was great, too.”“The weather wasn’t as nice Saturday as it was Sunday, but everyone is just so glad to be out again that it didn’t seem to matter,” she said. “People are still careful, of course, but you don’t realize how much you miss people, and these events, until you’re back out there.”
“Bay Ridge is just such a great, welcoming neighborhood,” Rutelo continued. “There’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Ragamuffin, it’s just such a great place to have an organization, and to live, because of the fact that it is just so inclusive. It makes it all the more special.”