‘The melting pot of New York City’: Bay Ridge embraces Scandinavian roots at Viking Fest

Medieval performers entertain at Viking Fest 2024, held on Saturday, May 11 at Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge.
Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Viking Fest 2024, an annual celebration of Scandinavian culture and heritage, descended upon Owl’s Head Park on Saturday, May 11, drawing crowds of all ages eager to go back in time — if only for an afternoon.

The event has become a beloved tradition in Bay Ridge, and its roots date back to the early 20th century when the South Brooklyn neighborhood experienced an influx of Scandinavian immigrants. These immigrants, primarily from Norway and Sweden, brought with them their customs, traditions, and a deep connection to their Viking ancestry.

Attendees donned medieval helmets and shield replicas as they enjoyed a day filled with activities that transported them back in time to the era of the Norse warriors.

From scavenger hunts to traditional Nordic folk music performances, there was no shortage of entertainment at this year’s Viking Fest. Performers included Swedish Meatball aka Ellen Lindstrom on accordion, the Clann Eireann Pipe Band and a Middle Eastern dance performance by Arabella Espana.

This couple traveled from the Bronx to Bay Ridge to indulge in cultural food and fun.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Among the highlights each year is the viking reenactment battle, where skilled performers bring to life the fierce combat tactics of years past. Spectators cheered as the warriors clashed swords and shields on Owl’s Head Park’s sprawling lawn.

Viking Fest wrapped up with medieval court proceedings and final games such as Ring Around a Viking and Clippity Hop Horse Drop.

“We’re happy to be here and we are grateful to not have any rain,” said Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Scandinavian East Coast Museum and organizer of the annual event. “Last year, we had rain, so it’s great to have a little redemption.”

Locals enjoy Viking Fest 2024.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

For many residents of Bay Ridge, Viking Fest holds a special significance, serving as a reminder of the enduring legacy of the Scandinavian immigrants who helped shape the fabric of the community.

But Viking Fest isn’t just for those of Scandinavian descent.

“We love it, we come every year and everybody is welcome,” said “Eclectic Ellen” Lindstromon. “This is the melting pot of New York City.”

Viking Fest also serves as the kickoff of Norwegian Day parade season in the neighborhood. Aside from a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, the Norwegian Immigration Association has held a 17th of May Parade yearly since 1952 on the Sunday closest to the name-sake date.

Families got in on the Viking Fest fun.Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

This year’s 17th of May Parade will step off next Sunday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m. near Third Avenue and 83rd Street, ending near Leif Ericson Park.

Additional reporting by Arthur de Gaeta