Editorial: A beloved tradition

As Norwegian-Americans and Norwegians for the day prepare to step off in the annual 17th of May Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Bay Ridge, we would like to take a moment to salute and celebrate the tradition that has kept the march, 72 years young this year, alive and well.

Times have certainly changed since the first parade stepped off in 1952. In those days, there was a sizeable Scandinavian population in southwest Brooklyn – populating neighborhoods including Bay Ridge and Sunset Park — that has dwindled in the ensuing decades.

Nonetheless, the parade tradition is renewed and even augmented each year, as local residents not only mark the origin of Norway’s constitution, but also select a Miss Norway, who always makes an appearance as one of the parade’s stars.

In addition, another tradition has blossomed in the neighborhood, as activists have nurtured the Viking Fest, which each year – on the day before the parade –is held in Bay Ridge’s lovely Owls Head Park.

There, costumed participants celebrate Nordic customs, and the customs of other countries which have contributed to the wonderful melting pot which is Brooklyn, and which continues to evolve as new immigrant groups arrive, settle here and share the foods and culture of their homelands.

So, yes, there is a Viking ship at the event (it also makes an appearance in the parade) as well as a Viking battle performed by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, but there are also performances by Irish step dancers and musicians, Mid-eastern dancers and the like, reflecting this neighborhood’s amazing diversity.

Indeed, Brooklyn’s diversity is its strength, as is its ability to keep alive old customs even as new ones are forged. Such events as the Norwegian-American Day Parade are a living testament to that.

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