While it may seem surprising in a city so far away to have such big festivities for Norwegian Constitution Day, for those who call Ballard home, its an annual tradition. While Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood is known for its seafood and sunsets, Ballard and Scandinavia also go hand in hand. Our neighborhoods ties to Scandinavia date back to the mid 1800’s, when thousands of settlers from that area made Ballard their home. Though today, this neighborhood is home to people from all over the globe, you’re still likely to see some Scandinavian flags flying in our historic maritime town.
Why is this event a Ballard staple?
For those who know Ballard, they know it this area has deep roots and strong ties to Scandinavia. Many fishermen came to the area in the mid 1800’s in search of opportunities in America. The population quadrupled by the turn of the 19th century, and those who arrived there were still largely coming from Scandinavia, filling the job market in fishing, timber, and the application of shingles to roofs. These days, Ballard is home to a diverse community, but there are still many grandchildren and great grandchildren of these original settlers living in Ballard today. From celebration of their national holidays in Ballard, to the University of Washington being home to one of the largest departments of Scandinavian Studies in the world offering courses ranging from “Saga of the Vikings” to Icelandic language, the culture brought from Scandiana over 100 years ago is still alive and well in Seattle.
What does the 17th of May Celebrate?
Similar to 4th of July in America, and St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, the 17th of May is a national holiday in Norway where everyone comes together to celebrate their country’s history and culture. On May 17, 1814, the Norwegian constitution was signed, declaring their independence from Sweden. This holiday is celebrated across Norway and around the world with cultural displays, parades, and a variety of games and activities for children. Norwegians and other partakers in the festivals will showcase Norwegian flags, sing their national anthem, and eat plenty of ice cream and waffles.
What events are going on in Ballard on May 17th?
Every year, Ballard has a big celebration of this historic holiday. From Norwegian food to dance performances, there are many different activities for the whole family in Ballard on May 17. A few highlights include:
- Free admission for kids at Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
- A great lineup of live Norwegian music at Bergen Place Park from noon until 6:00 p.m.
- Traditional Norwegian lunch at the Nordic Heritage Museum (tickets must be purchased ahead of time)
- Nordic food and beverages at the Leif Erikson Cafe
- A parade featuring a number of local performers and musicians through Central Ballard from 6:00-8:00 p.m.