PHOTOS: Bay Ridge parties at back-to-back Viking Fest and Norwegian Day Parade

norwegian day parade
People of all ages marched in the annual 17th of May Parade, which returned to Bay Ridge on May 15 for the first time since the pandemic.
Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

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.

viking day celebrations
Bay Ridgeites pulled out their suits of armor from the back of their wardrobe for the annual Viking Festival on May 14 at Owl’s Head Park. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta.
viking fest
Viking Fest attendees were also invited to enjoy some staple Viking cuisine. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

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. 

People on Norwegian Day parade float
The Norwegian Day Parade returned to Bay Ridge on May 15 after a two-year pandemic pause. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“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.”

people at norwegian day parade
Norwegian and Scandinavian Brooklynites and community leaders celebrated the return of the Norwegian Day Parade on May 15. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
norwegian day parade
A marching band kept time as Brooklyn celebrated Norway and the borough’s rich Scandinavian heritage. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

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.

girl marching in Norwegian Day parade
Norse Brooklynites of all ages celebrated their heritage at the Norwegian Day Parade this weekend, marching down Third Avenue after the pandemic paused festivities for two years. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
norwegian day parade
Many Norwegians and Scandanavians immigrated to Bay Ridge, which is still chock-full of their descendants and heritage. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

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.”

norwegian day parade
Bay Ridgeites donned their best cultural clothing to celebrate their heritage at the Norwegian Day Parade, also known as the 17th of May Parade. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
norwegian day parade people in car with flags
Leaders of the local Norwegian community hoisted their flags as they drove down the parade route on Sunday.  Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“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.”