Adolfs Lacis and member Ante Deksne

Local festival celebrates Scandinavian culture


Football was out and Vikings were in at Brisbane’s Perry Park on Sunday as more than 8000 people came together to celebrate the 7th annual Scandinavian Festival.

Local blacksmith Dylan Yates
Local blacksmith Dylan Yates says the Scandinavian Festival provides a perfect market for his wares. Photo: Dylan Yates

Visitors to the festival were treated to a day that paid tribute to Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Estonian and Latvian culture.

The festival’s 50 tents hosted a range of traditional cuisine, beverages, clothing and entertainment.

The imported Danish beers gained a strong fan base, as did the Lavian Pīrāgi (traditional bacon or vegetarian buns) and the Viking burgers (organisers promise that no Vikings were harmed in the making of these burgers!).

A group of LARPERS (Live Action Role Players) helped festival goers “experience” life in Viking times, while also helping to break down misconceptions about Vikings, who were not as aggressive as historians once thought and who did not wear horns on their helmets.

The Lego station and face painters drew in children of all ages, while the Latvian Group Dance had many onlookers joining in the fun.
Local choirs and musical ensembles performed music that ranged from Latvian classical music to experimental symphonic metal straight out of Finland.

Latvian traditional dance
Members of the Latvian Association performed a traditional dance on the main stage at the Scandinavian Festival. Photo: Ari Balle-Bowness

The Scandinavian Festival began in 2012 when the Danish Association Heimdal decided to transform their 140th anniversary celebration from a black-tie dinner to something bigger.

Club president Soren Hoimark and his wife Lone Schmidt spearheaded the change by inviting other Scandinavian clubs to come together for a united event.

Seven years on, they now have a full-time event manager, Cecilie Meade, who coordinates the festival.

“Soren Hoimark is a very passionate man,”Ms Meade said.

“He wanted to get all the clubs together to do something different, given there is such a market for multi-cultural events,” she said.

This year’s festival has grown even bigger, thanks to the addition of the Latvian Association.

Latvia is not actually a part of Scandinavia, but they were allowed to join in the party due to the deep historical connections between Latvia and Denmark and a bilateral relationship between the two countries that continues today.

“We thought it was a good way of growing the event [by] allowing our neighbours to participate as well,’ Ms Meade said.

“But we’re still not changing the name.”

Ante Deksne, from the Brisbane Latvian Association, said she was delighted to be involved in the festival.

“Firstly, I hope people leave happy, fed, and had some beers,” Ms Deksne said.

“Secondly, I hope people now recognise our costumes when they see us again, and just learn that we are nice friendly people, and we are welcoming and happy to share our culture with everyone.”

Adolfs Lacis and member Ante Deksne
Latvian Association president Adolfs Lacis and member Ante Deksne were happy to take part in their first Brisbane Scandinavian Festival. Photo: Ari Balle-Bowness

This not-for profit event runs off a very small budget and relies heavily on funding from the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government.

“I don’t think people realise how expensive it is to put on an event like this,” Ms Meade said.

“We don’t really have much money to put in fancy stuff, expensive infrastructure, or marketing, or being all branded like at other commercial events you see now, like the French Festival,” she said.

Ms Deskne explained that all the funds raised simply went toward paying for the festival, and any money made by the participating clubs went directly back to their local community clubs.

Although the Scandinavian Festival is small compared with some of the other Brisbane cultural festivals, for many of the businesses involved it is the major event of the year.

Local blacksmith Dylan Yates said the Scandinavian Festival opened his business to a wide range of people.

Dylan or “Ulvard” (the “wolf guardian” in old Norse language) specialises in medieval craft, including forging axes, hammers and eating spikes.

Mr Yates said the Scandinavian Festival provided a perfect market for him, unlike other events where he had to compete with other crafters.

“At events like History Alive I am competing with other people in the medieval scene doing the same sort of stuff,” he said.

“At the Scandinavian festival, I am the only blacksmith there, so I have my own sort of market.”

Saga Viking tent at Scandinavian Festival
Not surprisingly, the Saga Viking tent drew a lot of attention at the Scandinavian Festival. Photo: Ari Balle-Bowness

Other vendors shared this view, including Helene Von Schrenk who runs a business called Swede Little Things.

Ms Von Schrenk said she travelled from Melbourne with her family to participate in the event.

Swede Little Things specialises in traditional Sámi (indigenous Scandinavian) jewellery.

The hand-crafted jewellery made from reindeer leather, pewter and silver has been a part of Swedish culture since before the 17th century.
“It really opens us up and spreads my business to Scandinavian and non-Scandinavians,” Ms Von Schrenk said.

“This is the third time I’ve come here,” she said.

“It’s a good one.”

The festivities ended with a notable choir performance of “Hallelujah” and, naturally, an IKEA flat pack competition.

During the competition, two couples battled it out to see who could build their Astra Armchair the fastest.

The victors, Lina Kohler and Adrian Wagner, were pleased with the result.

“We’re very happy with our well-crafted piece of furniture,” Mr Wagner said.

“We’ll have to come back next year for a second chair.”

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