Celebrating the 17th, Brooklyn Style
The 17th of May in Brooklyn is not relegated to just one day. It begins with the Norwegian Christian Home’s annual event, always held on the day itself.
This year, not even a last-minute cancellation by the main speaker could ruin the evening, as attendee Arnie Bergman attested: “I enjoyed listening to Adolf Hansen speak about his upcoming book about growing up in the ‘Norwegian Colony.’”
Viking Fest 2018 was held on May 19 in Owl’s Head/Bliss Park. The soggy weather did not dampen the resolve of three reenactment organizations, NYC Pagans, or attendees. Ellen Lindstrom tickled the ivories of her accordion from under the Scandinavian East Coast Museum’s tent and the Narrows Community Theater sang excerpts from their upcoming show, Into the Woods, while sheltered under a protective arbor of umbrellas. Matthew Simon Ryan Cavalletto won by a whisker in the fest’s first annual Best Festooned Viking Style Facial Hair Contest.
The 17th of May Parade in Bay Ridge is 66 years young and occurs on the third Sunday in May. This year’s theme was Honoring Our Veterans. It has become a tradition to gather before and during the parade at The Salty Dog with its full-sized fire truck.
The Harp, which sits along the parade route, is where the NYPD hangs out for the day, selling t-shirts to mark the event and holding a barbecue.
The parade kicks off at 1:30 p.m. and is organized into three marching groups: Sons of Norway, churches, and civics, with marching and pipe bands interspersed. This year the Marienlyst School Marching Band all the way from Oslo, Norway, played in full regalia. One highlight is the float competition, with this year’s winner Sporting Club Gjøa.
After the parade, you have your choice of places to visit. 66th Street Church is the closest to the end of the parade route. Shirley Olsen says, “We celebrate the day by having a service to highlight our Norwegian roots through song and to come together in faith.” The service is administered by the Ebenezer Mission Society. This is always followed by amazing baked goods and coffee.
The Swedish Club, a short walk from where the parade ends, is a perfect place to begin your 17th of May crawl. I always start my observances here with an aquavit (I sip) and a cheeseburger. Don’t let the barbed wire above the entryway fool you. There is a welcoming outdoor space with picnic tables.
The Danish Athletic Club, which was recently on the endangered list, has made a comeback under the leadership of the Thorsen family and other hard-working volunteers. Stop in for a buffet dinner or a drink. But, do stop in, as it is frozen in time in the best of all possible ways. Smorgasbandet plays lively music as the dance floor fills with kids and kids at heart ranging from 2 to 92.
Sporting Club Gjøa is one of the oldest independent sports clubs in the country. Tug-of-war was the sport of choice at the club’s inception in 1911, but now soccer reigns. This is a great place to eat lapskaus or meatballs and end with Scandinavian homemade baked goods. Boasting a bar, back room, and two outdoor spaces—covered and uncovered—here you can belly up to the bar or have your kids kick around a soccer ball out back. Social Director Ciara McArdle commented on this year’s event: “It was a beautiful day for the 17th of May at the Gjøa club, where we all were able to honor all our club members and their family members who have served in the military.”
Have you partied in Brooklyn to mark the 17th yet? What are you waiting for?
This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.