Viking Festival Draws in Crowds for Battles, Blacksmithing

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Hundreds of people came out to Wilkowski Park for the NorseWest Viking Festival this past weekend in Rainier. 

Folks spent time perusing local food vendors, showing off their Viking costumes and watching live sword fights. They also shopped through the village and learned about Viking trades as well as observed a Vikings for Vets poker run in honor of those who lost their lives because of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Vikings for Vets motorcyclists ended their poker run at Wilkowski Park on Saturday, Sept. 11, and many had subsequently donned their Viking armor and became ready for battle.

A large group of spectators gathered around a makeshift battle arena, and cheered on their favorite Vikings.

“The thrill of battle sets my blood on fire,” said Levi Gann, a spectator of the bouts. “I love being around everybody, finally being free.”

Gann said events like the Viking festival are important because they bring the community together.

“It builds friendship and family,” he said.

Rice Henson, one of the viking fighters that Gann enjoyed watching, said he obtained his Viking armor from all over the world. Many of the items were handmade, with some created by his own hands.

“A lot of the (fighters) build their own armor whenever they can,” Henson said.

When asked what it was like to fight in a full suit of armor, Henson gave a mixed review.

“It’s fun. It hurts. It’s hot,” he said. “You should not start this when you are 56.”

Henson said when the Vikings were not battling, they could be found throughout the weekend teaching trades. Henson taught tanning classes for the event.

One such Viking tradesman impressed Rodney Blake, of Yelm. 

“I checked out the blacksmith,” Blake told the Nisqually Valley News. “I liked his technique. His swing with the hammer was really good, except for when the iron fell to the ground and set the grass on fire.”

Not to worry, the blacksmith was set up in a fenced-off, controlled area, where any fires were swiftly dealt with.

Blake said that he and his wife Dorothy came to the festival in 2019, and would have attended last year if it hadn’t been for COVID-19-related shutdowns.

Dorothy Blake said the event is a favorite of theirs because it falls within the category of one of their interests.

“I’m just happy that there are places that do this kind of stuff around here,” she said. “We’re medieval reenactors. Events like this give us a chance to be social and enjoy the kinds of stuff that we enjoy.”

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