Dufferin Grove Park in the city’s west end was to be the setting for this year’s Icelandic Day National Day picnic as members of Toronto’s Icelandic Canadian Club gathered to recall and celebrate June 17th, the long sought for day in 1944, on which Iceland finally became free of Denmark’s rule.
Trees surrounding the campfire were decorated with red, white and blue balloons and Icelandic flags.
Picnic tables, however, were initially used not for food but for fun, as sizeable groups of young children delighted in creating their own helmets and shields, and prepared to wield their plastic and styrofoam swords in the mock epic battles to follow.
For there would be no tame three-legged races from Sunday school picnics of yore for these contemporary Vikings. Club member and artist, Terril Calder had organized this creation of young Vikings and other distinctly Icelandic games such as “Capture the Sheep”, fashioned specifically for the occasion.
While non-Icelanders in the park may have been drawn to the Farmer’s Organic Market or the basketball court, their children were chiefly seen to be tugging them in the direction of Terril and her exuberant followers.And then, appropriately after supper, it was time for Kvöldvaka or “evening wake”, the creation of the second singular talent of this special event.
Svavar Knútur, gentle Icelandic troubadour from the West Fjords, just happened to be here en route home from an Australian tour, and what ensued were stories, songs, singalongs, and contemplation to the dulcet accompaniment of guitar and ukulele. As tiny Johanna Tomasdóttir twirled slowly, arms extended heavenward, in front of the singer, it was, for Margrét Bjorgvinsdóttir, picnic coordinator, a “holy moment”.
Finally, tired little Vikings, many still in costume, toasted marshmallows, and clutching flags and bouquets of balloons, reluctantly allowed their parents to take them home.