By Jeet Gauswami
After eight hours of festivities for Norwegian Constitution Day at the Nordic Museum, Bergen Park, and Leif Erikson Hall, people took to the streets of Old Ballard on Friday for the annual Syttende Mai Parade.
The parade featured 94 different participants, including marching bands, dancing groups, non-profits, and different Scandinavian characters.
The Norwegian 17th of May Committee has been sponsoring and arranging Syttende Mai annually since 1889. Seattle hosts the largest celebration of Norwegian Constitution Day outside of Norway, according to the Norwegian embassy.
“We have been preparing for today since September,” said Laura Hanson, who is a secretary for the 17th of May committee.
This year’s Syttende Mai [Soot-n-duh My] parade Grand Marshall was former Norwegian Minister of Transportation and Communication Ketlik Solvik-Olsen. Solvik-Olsen spearheaded the parade after the Seattle Police Motorcycle Drill Team showed their precision on motorcycles with sharp turns and eye-staggering formations.
“Nordic representation and population in Seattle has always been on an upswing,” said Lisa Bergman, an on-air personality for KING FM 98.1. “For the past 20 years, Syttende Mai has been growing big in terms of festivities and attendance.” Bergman is also a founder and previous Artistic Director of the Mostly Nordic Chamber Music Series presented at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle.
Parade watchers did not leave an inch of open curbside on either side of the street. Norwegian descendants were wearing their traditional ‘bunad’ dresses. Children were waving Norwegian flags while waiting for parade participants to hand out candy.
The parade also featured high school marching bands from Wenatchee and Vancouver, and bystanders appreciated jubilant performers with cheers of “Hipp, Hipp, Hurra!” Everyone was awestruck when a group of more than 100 unicyclists from Whittier Elementary School cruised down the street.