Syttende Mai: A local parade as old as our state

A little piece of trivia for you this week: When you see the annual Syttende Mai festivities throughout Ballard on May 17, remember that the celebrations have been taking place in our state since the year our state was admitted to the union in 1889.

The same year, workers completed the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Van Gogh painted his Starry Night. Locally in 1889, a fire near a woodworking shop at First and Madison quickly spread, becoming what we know as the Great Seattle Fire.

But back to Syttende Mai, it’s been 121 years since that first Norwegian Constitution Day festival in Seattle, and this year it’s just as strong as ever—even more so.

“It’s become this huge parade,” said Laila Sharpe of Seattle’s 17th of May Committee. “They say it’s the largest one outside of Norway.”

It’s also said to be one of the largest ethnic parades in the United States.

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The Scandinavian sites of Ballard

As Syttende Mai approaches, MyBallard examines Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. Last week we looked at the Scandinavian culinary gems, and today we tour some of the neighborhood’s historical and cultural markers.

A drive or walk along Seaview Avenue at the western edge of Ballard takes residents and visitors right by the Leif Erikson memorial, where a statue of the Norse explorer looks out over Shilshole Bay and the boats moored in the marina.

A Shilshole icon for decades, the statue was a gift to the city from the Norwegian American community, and was unveiled during the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. It now sits surrounded by rune stones bearing the names of Scandinavian immigrants, a relatively new tribute to Scandinavian immigrants, which the Leif Erikson International Foundation, or LEIF, unveiled in October 2007.

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The Scandinavian tastes of Ballard

In just a few weeks Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage will come out in full force for the annual Syttende Mai—or Norwegian Constitution Day—celebration. It’s hard to miss the annual parade that travels along 24th Avenue and then Market Street every 17th of May, but the celebration also includes other events throughout the day. In fact, it’s […]

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