Edmonton's Swans of Winter Project demonstrated historical Norwegian music and instruments at the Norwegian Laft Hus 35th Year Festival that took place at Heritage Park on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Laft Hus Norwegian Festival celebrates return

First festival since 2019 because of pandemic postponement draws hundreds on Saturday

You can always count on rooftop goats as a crowd-pleaser.

The sure-footed grass munchers with no fear of heights were among the stars at the Norwegian Laft Hus 35th Year Festival at Heritage Park on Saturday.

They were joined by axe throwers, Scandinavian dancers and musicians, storytellers and artists along with servings of “Norwegian soul food” and demonstrations of Viking combat.

At least 500 people took in this year’s festival, which was the first since the pandemic meant postponing the celebrations in the last two years.

“We were very happy with the turnout,” said festival chairperson Donna Polutnik on Monday. “It was more people than we had three years ago with our last festival.”

Organizers were thrilled to have the opportunity once again to showcase the log-built laft hus, its artifacts and many other examples of Norwegian culture.

For many years, the festival was held every five years, but the Norwegian Laft Hus Society wanted to do more and the first annual festival happened in 2017. It ran the following two years before the pandemic brought a temporary halt to the celebrations.

“We were so happy to begin organizing. It’s a once-in-a-year chance to showcase our laft hus,” said Polutnik on Monday.

The society has big plans for the festival, which members would like to see grow every year. Among the new activities this year was axe throwing, with Sylvan Lake’s Wood Shed Axe Throwing bringing out their mobile target cage.

Members of Edmonton’s Swans of Winter Project demonstrated historical Norse music and instruments and Gull Lake Honey brought their roof-friendly goats and sold their products at one of a number of vendor tables. A pair of Norwegian fjord ponies and their punk rock manes were also a big hit.

More than a dozen vendors, a relatively new addition to the festival, were set to come this year. However, ominous weather forecasts scared off many. But inviting more vendors and artisans is a part of future expansion plans for the festival.

“People will often say when they arrive for the first time that it’s the best-kept secret in Red Deer. But we’re saying we don’t want it to be a secret. We want the town to know we exist.”

“This is an opportunity to really show Red Deer what we offer there, as a cultural centre, as a museum and as a gift shop.”

The laft hus, which is located in Heritage Park just behind the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, is open all summer from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and staff are on hand to talk about the Norwegian community’s big contributions to central Alberta.

To get more information go to the Norwegian Laft Hus Society and Museum Facebook page.



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Norwegian fjord ponies and their unique multi-coloured bristle-like manes were popular at the Norwegian Laft Hus 35th Year Festival that took place at Heritage Park on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Edmonton's Swans of Winter Project demonstrated historical Norwegian music and instruments at the Norwegian Laft Hus 35th Year Festival that took place at Heritage Park on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Edmonton's Swans of Winter Project demonstrated historical Norwegian music and instruments at the Norwegian Laft Hus 35th Year Festival that took place at Heritage Park on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)