VISTA — Thousands will flock to take part in the heritage of Odin, the God of Gods, to Loki, the trickster, at an unexpected Valhalla, the 17th annual Vista Viking Festival.
The two-day extravaganza runs Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 at Norway Hall, 2006 E. Vista Way, and features music, food, drinks, culture, re-enactments and, of course, Viking weapons. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 21 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 22.
It’s the only fundraiser of the year for the Norway Hall, which is a club for those celebrating, researching and learning about their Scandinavian history; although it’s centered on Norway, according to President James Jerpseth.
The event exploded in popularity several years ago thanks to History Channel’s hit TV show, “Vikings,” he said. Prior to the show, the event typically saw about 4,000 to 5,000 attendees.
“We were completely unprepared one year,” Jerpseth said. “We had more people than we knew what do with. We had to step everything up a whole other level.”
It’s a trip down history lane, he added, noting the focus is on Viking culture from 900 A.D., while other Renaissance festivals are centered between 1200 A.D. to 1400 A.D., at the latest.
But after the first season of “Vikings,” people flocked en masse, Jerpseth said, as the festival drew 10,000 people, overwhelming the organizers. But like true Vikings, the organizers overcame the mass of people and expanded their event and assistance, enlisting between 800 to 900 volunteers, he added.
The festival also includes live music, blacksmithing, baking traditional bread, a marketplace, a kids zone and the chance to shoot arrows and throw spears and axes. Also, traditional Viking encampments are set up plus attendees will get to watch or participate in battle cry and horn blowing competitions, a log toss and a fish fling.
Another feature is the growing list of craft brewers, especially those with an emphasis on mead, a honey-based alcohol. Also, numerous vendors will cover the grounds with their Viking-era products, while the go-to food is lefse, a Scandinavian flatbread.
“There’s about four or five Viking re-enactment groups that set up … all using period tools,” Jerpseth said. “Inside Norway Hall there’s a whole area concentrated on handy crafts.”
As for the music, James Lucas, the public relations director for the festival and Norway Hall member, said numerous Celtic and Scottish bands will perform as it is difficult to track down what the Vikings listened to more than 1,000 years ago. Still, visitors will be treated to Rachel Nesvig, who will play a Norwegian instrument known as the Hardanger fiddle, similar to a violin.
Lucas said the festival has also made several improvements with parking, more shuttles and seating, along with a new ticket booth and ticketing system.
“It’s like going to living history,” he added. “We will also have battle demonstrations for the crowd.”
The cost is $15 for adults 21 or older, $10 for ages 13 to 20, $3 for 6 to 12 and kids under 5 are admitted free. Parking is $5 at Vista High School, 1 Panther Way, or Guajome Park, which includes a free shuttle.