By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge’s small, but proud Norwegian-American community is gearing up for its biggest even of the year, the 61st Annual 17th of May Parade to be held this Sunday. The parade, which celebrates the 1814 signing of the Constitution of Norway, traditionally takes place on the Sunday closest to May 17. This year, the parade date is May 19. The march will take place rain or shine, according to organizers.
The parade, sponsored by the Norwegian-American 17th of May Committee of Greater New York, will step off on Third Avenue and 80th Street at 1:30 p.m. The event is also known as the Norwegian Day Parade.
Hundreds of marchers, along with bands and floats shaped like Viking ships will make their way along the route in Third Avenue from 81st Street to 69th Street. The marchers will then proceed up 69th Street to Fifth Avenue and along the avenue to 67th Street and up 67th Street to Sixth Avenue and into Leif Ericson Park. A post-parade ceremony will be held at the grandstand in the park featuring guest speaker Rune Edvardsen, a Norwegian evangelist.
The marchers are expected to include members of Sons of Norway lodges from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, along with members of local church groups and civic organizations.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Sharing our Norwegian Traditions.”
In the 1940s, 1950s, and into the early 1960s, Bay Ridge boasted a large and vibrant Norwegian-American community. Tens of thousands of people of Norwegian descent called the community home and did their shopping in stores along on Eighth Avenue, the center of the community at the time. Over the past 50 years, however, Norwegians have been moving out and have been replaced by Asian-Americans, and other nationalities.
Still, Norwegians said they’re proud of their contributions to Brooklyn history and enjoy keeping up the tradition of holding a parade each year.
In a message posted on the committee’s website, Arlene Rutuelo, general chairman of the parade, wrote about the importance of maintaining the tradition.
“Some might think, ‘Why bother to have a parade? There are not many Norwegians in Brooklyn anymore. Give it up, and move on with your life. What’s left to celebrate?’ As Norwegian American’s living in New York, we must remember and celebrate days gone by, while looking forward into the future,” she wrote.
“Yes, the purpose of our parade is to celebrate the 17th of May – the Constitution Day of Norway – and we celebrate this with a grand and wonderful parade. We also must remember to teach the next generation to rekindle the Norwegian ‘spark’ that once burned brightly in our surrounding community, and maintain the influence we have had in New York in the past,” Rutuelo wrote.
The parade isn’t the only event in Bay Ridge this weekend celebrating Scandinavian countries like Norway.
On Saturday, May 18, the Viking Fest, a celebration of Scandinavian music, food, and culture, will take place in Owl’s Head Park, Colonial Road and 68th Street, starting at 11:30 a.m.
A replica of a Viking ship will be stationed n the park.
The event, which began in 2001, is sponsored by The Scandinavian East Coast Museum.