The Norwegian Tradition Continues

Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood has long been a gathering place for Scandinavians, particularly Norwegians.  Through the 1800’s, people in Norway heard about this place called America and how this spot on the west coast felt similar to their homeland, while also full of opportunity.

To this day, lots of fishing fleets are based in Ballard. The TV show, “The Deadliest Catch” brought it into our living rooms. The area became known as, “Snoose Junction.” The biggest party of the year is always “Seafoodfest”, with three days of bands, crafts and lots of seafood.

But this year is different, as you know. Seafoodfest has been officially scrapped for this year, while other traditions are being postponed with a hope of rescheduling. But there’s only one 17th of May and this year, the annual Syttende Mai parade through downtown Ballard was canceled.

For us, we had turned the celebration into a two-day affair, grabbing a room at the Hotel Ballard and living there for a couple of days. There was a big luncheon at noon, followed by assorted happy hours and then, the 17th of May Parade that marched down 24th, and made a left on Market Street. For the past 7 years, I’ve had the honor of announcing the parade from the official grandstand.

Again, this year was different and the parade, the luncheon, the singing at Bergen Place, all canceled. That meant a 130-year-old tradition was at risk. I mean, c’mon, they even marched over a century ago during the Spanish Flu outbreak. Of course, that could have been what fueled that Second Wave we keep hearing about.

One day, I thought, “What if a few of us got together, maintaining our social distance, and put on a Syttende Mai parade of our own?”  I passed the idea along to a few members of the community and the next thing you know, we had a plan.

We had to walk a fine line because, in accordance with the Governor’s orders, there were to be no gatherings.  The official parade organizers wanted nothing to do with this, because they didn’t want to risk losing their official Seafair-sanctioned status. So, we kept it to a handful of people, who dressed up and, at the exact time the big parade would have stepped off, we began down the route in our cars, wearing masks and honking our horns.

But rather than telling you, why don’t I show you exactly what happened.

The streak remained intact. The tradition continued.

And if even for a couple of hours on that pandemic Sunday afternoon, the spirit of Syttende Mai lived on.

Skål.

Tim Hunter

Here We Go Again

I’m not Norwegian. But I married into it. And that’s OK.

As we approach another 17th of May (Norwegian Constitution Day), we’ll be doing the traditional stay in the Ballard Hotel for two nights, attending the big luncheon, stopping by the Leif Erikson Lodge, I will announce the parade while Victoria marches in it and so on.

It’s an all-out celebration of Norwegian heritage and good for them. But they are WAY more concerned about where their parts came from than I am. I’m a rag-tag collection of ethnicities from around the globe.  In fact, here’s what 23andme.com had to say about my make-up:

Yep, that’s what it takes to create your very own Tim Hunter. It was me before you knew that, it’s still me after you read that data. A lot of Northern European, with a splash of Eastern European that I surmise resulted from some relative’s wild weekend away.

Heritage is nice to know. Some people embrace it, while others like me say, “Eh, good to know.”

Who we are is the result of what we’ve been, our experiences, our influences. In other words, we have existed.

I look at my life’s journey and I’m extremely appreciative and happy for everything. Oh, that’s not to say there were pretty rough spots along the way, but everything resulted in my present being, in who I am today and all things considered, I’ll take it.

This summer, we’re heading to Scotland to visit the town where my dad was born, I look forward to feeling a closer connection to those roots. However, I will still be this Tim Hunter guy I’ve become.

And I’m really liking that.

Tim Hunter

 

Syttende Mai to you, too!

MJ & Me

MJ & Me

It’s Syttende Mai Eve.  Do you open your aquavit on Syttende Mai Eve or Syttende Mai morning?

For the non-Nordic types reading this, the world in which I find myself these days is heavy on the Norwegian side and every 17th of May is a big deal. It’s Syttende Mai, or for those of us without Google translator handy, Norwegian Constitution Day.

And so?

Well, in Seattle, in the Nordic suburb of Ballard, Norwegians near and far gather to celebrate day.  This year, being on a Saturday, promises to be quite the celebration.

What makes the 2014 edition even more special is that it’s the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution and the 125th year of the parade in Seattle!  In fact, our Syttende Mai parade is the largest in the U.S. and second only to one held in Norway.  The size of the parade actually rivals the annual Seafair Torchlight Parade.

However, while there are marching bands and drill teams, V.I.P.’s and such the bulk of the parade is filled with Norwegians and their various groups from all over the area.  Sons of Norway lodges, Daughters of Norway, the chorus groups, the clubs…they’ll be there marching through Ballard, rain or shine, starting at 6pm.  For the third year in a row, I have the honor of being one of the parade announcers, along with Ballard resident and Q13 weather goddess, M.J. McDermott.

The day begins with Mayor Ed Murray making an appearance at Bergen Place Park at 10am to kick off the day.  There’s a sold-out lunch with VIP’s at the Leif Erikson Lodge and then various happy hours throughout Ballard to get the marchers ready for the big event.

So, if see people running around on Saturday dressed up in their Norwegian outfits, now you’ll know why.  If you want to blend in, say something like, “Nice bunad!” (BOO-nod) or, “Hurrah for Syttende Mai!” (sitten-de-MY) and you’ll probably be asked to join one of their organizations!

Remember, all the Norwegians are IN the parade, so if you’d like to help make up the crowd, it steps off at 6pm.

Tim Hunter