Thor’s hammer:Icelandic Celebration, 2012


That Thor was raging about was first noticeable during the Gimli Film Festival. During the showing of the  movie, Bob Marley, on the screen in the lake, the sky to the north lit up with lightening flashing through dark clouds. It ran in great flashes of horizontal flame. Gradually, it spread to the East side of the lake and started moving westward toward us. The movie was shut down before the electrical storm got too close. There were well over a thousand people on the beach.

The Icelandic Celebration was coming a few days later. Those of us who have spent a lifetime in Manitoba sniffed the air, kept an eye on the barometer, watched the sky. The heat became oppressive, the air muggy.

Friday, all hell broke loose, lightening and thunder and with a resounding crash, the thunder announced a downpour. Not a few drops, not a drizzle, not a light rain. Water was pouring off my roof in rivers. Water filled every low spot in the roads, filled the ditches, water poured down relentlessly.

During a break, I went out. There wasn’t a single person on the beach, no one on first avenue, all the food vans that had come to town were shuttered and dark.

It’s high summer and two brave customers in jackets order BBQ.

Saturday, the barometer started rising but the rain came again, not as bad. Some people braved the rain. There were a group of young women in front of the Credit Union selling tickets from under a bevy of umbrellas but there was no one to sell them to. I went to the harbour. There was hot dog vendor open and a couple were standing in front of it. All else was shuttered.

Even the Vikings from the hill abandoned camp for a breakfast at the white hotel. They came double file down the sidewalk, eight of them, one holding a recently born baby.

Sidewalk vendors are a determined lot. Some were trying to get their tents up in spite of the wind and rain but others left. There was no one to sell jewelry to, model airplanes to, no one to give henna tattoos to or read horoscopes for. One brave soul was setting up odd looking candles. I went to the pancake breakfast at the New Horizons Centre. Where, normally, there would be a line through the building and out the door onto the parking lot, there were empty tables and about six people lined up for sausages, pancakes, eggs, coffee.

The shot put, the sand castle building, the volleyball had to be delayed until the next day.

The weather report said sunny for Sunday and Monday. But later it said cloudy for Sunday. All eyes were fixed on Monday, the day of the parade. A year’s work goes into the parade. Normally, the streets are lined many deep as people come from all over to watch and listen as the bands, the floats, the dignitaries, go by.  The parade is where the distinguished guests are presented to the community, where the local politicians ride or walk to demonstrate their solidarity with the people. The Fjallkona, in her costume representing Iceland, flanked by her princesses, leads the way, first to the shrine to the first settlers, then to the stage to oversee the formal program with its speeches about the bonds between New Iceland and Old Iceland.

To make matters worse, the Kvennakór Akureyrar (Akureyri Ladies Choir), would be on a large float. They had come from Iceland to sing, not to be drowned traveling down Centre Street.

Sunday morning there were clouds, even a slight sprinkle of rain, but no thunderheads. If there had been, it would have been time to make a sacrifice of a bull calf to Thor. The weather improved enough that a viking need for donuts asserted itself.

The clouds dissipated. The road races were on. A great gust of wind appeared. It was the vendors sighing with relief. The cultural and heritage pavilion opened. The Vikings had dried out and in the afternoon were ready to put on an entertaining example of Viking warfare. The Wondershow Midway and Rides was operating.

But all eyes were on the weather report for Monday. The day dawned bright and clear. When I walked down Centre Street to the staging area, optimism had returned. The sidewalks were already lined with chairs.

The Kvennakór Akureyrar (The Akreyri Laies Choir) ready to roll.

The parade was a great success. There were cheers and hand waving, candy throwing, blown kisses, wonderful Icelandic costumes, enthusiastic floats with people playing music and singing. The laying of the wreath by Fjallkona Connie Magnusson-Schimnowski was heartfelt. The speeches were passionate expressions of pride and love.

On the hill, the Vikings gathered for one last battle.

In the pavilion people slurped up Icelandic dainties and coffee in Amma’s kitchen, then came out to buy Icelandic coffee from Nelson Gerrard and Harley Jonasson, books from Lorna Tergesen and historic Icelandic books from Jim Anderson. Conversation was everything.

Oli Narfason talking to Þruður Helgadóttir and Þóra Margrét Baldvinsdóttir. You can be sure he´s speaking Icelandic. He not only speaks Icelandic but sings in it as well.

There were historic photos for sale, a new Icelandic alphabet book, vinartera. You could subscribe to Logberg-Heimskringla and purchase an Icelandic National League calendar.

And then it was over, the weather had held, friends and relatives had been reunited, visitors had been reminded of our Icelandic heritage, the Reykjavik Bakery had gone through rivers of kaffi and mountains of kleinur.

Now, it was time to take down the tents, stack up the chairs, sweep the floors and put everything away for when we meet again next year.