Ambassador Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson, Consul General of Iceland in Winnipeg, will bring greetings at the Traditional Program of this year’s Íslendingadagurinn at Gimli Park on Monday, August 2, at 2:00 p.m. The Toast to Iceland will be offered by Raymond Sigurdson, a long-time friend of the festival and former Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Gimli.
Fjallkona Anna Stevens will preside over the Traditional Program, which will be emceed by Jenna Boholij, President and the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, and include an address by Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon.
Whether you’re Icelandic by heritage, or Icelandic in spirit, Íslendingadagurinn will connect people to Icelandic culture with the 132nd festival – “Icelandic at Heart / Íslenskt Innst Inni,” from July 30 to August 2, 2021. This year’s celebration will offer virtual, hybrid, and limited in-person events.
“We’re thrilled to be able to offer in-person festival events again, in addition to virtual and hybrid. There are some experiences that can’t be properly replicated online and we’re really looking forward to hosting festival-goers in-person,” says festival president Jenna Boholij.
The arts are an important aspect of Icelandic culture and this year’s in-person events include the Icelandic Fashion Show, Saturday at Gimli Park, where traditional and modern Icelandic garments are modeled. The event will also feature Icelandic Fashion videos produced by the festival and limited tickets are available for purchase online and at the Festival Gift Shop. The Art Show is celebrating its 52nd year and entries from local artists will be on display Saturday through Monday at the Lakeview Gimli Resort in Darren Hall. (Admission to the Art Show is limited to fully-immunized persons.)
The Icelandic history and heritage of beautiful Hecla Island will be explored in the “Icelandic Hecla” video, premiering online Friday. Those wanting to show their Icelandic pride can decorate their lawns and submit photo entries for the Lawn Parade contest from anywhere in the world. The Viking Park Connectivity Project has been completed and a limited grand opening event will take place Friday to kick off the festival and celebrate the beautiful, culturally rich space surrounding the Viking statute. Donor opportunities are still available.
Vingólf Beverage Gardens is back in the Gimli Harbour area, Friday to Sunday, and festival-goers can enjoy cold drinks and cocktails featuring the infamous Icelandic spirit, Brennivín, and locally produced Crown Royal. The food truck and vendor areas are close by, offering many different opportunities to shop local.
We will be hosting a 50/50 draw once again, with the draw taking place on Monday. Tickets can be purchased online at fundingchange.ca/icelandicfestival and from festival volunteers on the weekend.
Music is back with a vengeance at this year’s festival, beginning Friday with the online release of exclusive music videos produced in Iceland by acclaimed musician, Sin Fang. For those wishing to enjoy live music in-person, limited tickets are available for the intimate Music on the Rooftop event (limited to fully-immunized persons) on Saturday, featuring the powerful vocals of Sol James and guests. Saturday Nite at the Park (limited to 140 attendees) features live outdoor performances at Gimli Park from The Noble Thiefs, Raine Hamilton, and Boy Golden, and Sunday’s Alternative Folk Festival (limited to 140 attendees) brings a star-studded local line-up comprised of The Secret Beach (Micah Erenberg), Jaxon Haldane with Keri Latimer, The New Lightweights, and Field Guide.
Participate in the Sandcastle contest – virtually or in-person on Saturday at Gimli Beach. Families can also take part in the Scavenger Hunt and search Viking Park for painted stones needed to decipher a hidden runic message. If you’re looking to stay active, participants can still register for the annual 1-mile, 5-kilometre and 10-mile races – virtually – or play a round of Fris-Nok at Gimli Park on Sunday.
The festival offers affordable events thanks to interest from our endowment fund, the support of all its sponsors, including the Government of Canada, the Government of Iceland, the Province of Manitoba, the RM of Gimli, corporate sponsors, and individual donors. In-person events may change with limited notice, depending on public health regulations. For a full up-to-date event schedule please visit icelandicfestival.com, or follow @icelandicfestival on social media.
The Deuce of August is returning with a full program and the force of the prairie wind for its 122nd annual celebration at Mountain, North Dakota, from July 30 to August 1, 2021. This year’s celebration marks a return to normal for the oldest continuing cultural festival in the state.
“After being forced by COVID pandemic health concerns to stage an abbreviated schedule of events for the 2020 Deuce Celebration, it is great to be able to announce that we will have a full slate of in-person events for the 2021 Deuce and we are back in action again,” declared Curtis Olafson, president of the Icelandic Communities Association of Northeast North Dakota. The decision to proceed was made at the ICA monthly meeting in May after determining that conditions had improved since last year. “Several of us in the ICA leadership have also shared the thought that we have a sense that people are anxious to get life back to normal, and for many of our members, it just isn’t summer unless you have The Deuce to look forward to.”
Last year, The Deuce took most of its program online, but this year the streets of Mountain will once again throng with Icelandic Americans showing their pride in their heritage.
Wayne Gudmundson, a highly regarded photographer who may be best known for his photographs depicting life in the Upper Midwest, will be the keynote speaker at the Heritage Program on Saturday, July 31, at 2:00 p.m. Wayne’s latest book, A Song for Liv, which pairs his photographs with personal accounts of his family over 28 generations, was published by North Dakota State University Press in July.
The food and entertainment will begin on Friday, July 30, with the Mountain American Legion Fish Fry on Main Street at 5:00 p.m. and continue with a Free Stage at 7:00 p.m. The next morning, the Pancake and Sausage Breakfast will be served at the Mountain Chalet from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. The Parade will work its way south on Main Street beginning at 10:30 a.m. and it will be broadcast live on KXPO AM 1340. This year’s parade grand marshals are Richard and Janyce Bjornson. The Vikur Salad Luncheon will begin serving in the basement of Vikur Lutheran Church at 11:00 a.m. At noon, the Car Show and Shine will commence as well as Kids’ Inflatable Games; Icelandic Storybook Time follows at 12:30 in Amma’s Garden at the Mountain Community Center, as does the Pedal Tractor Pull for Kids. The Heritage Program will begin at 2:00 p.m. and the day will end with a Street Dance featuring “Front Fenders” at 9:00 p.m.
The always-popular Genealogy Center, sponsored by Icelandic Roots, will be open at the Mountain Community Center on Friday, July 30, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., and on Saturday, July 31, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Those who can’t attend in person can schedule a virtual appointment via Zoom with an IR volunteer genealogist by contacting Sunna Olafson Furstenau at
Kathie Johnson and Dori Heck will operate a souvenir table throughout the celebration, carrying shirts, mugs, totes, jewelry, and books. Deuce souvenirs are also available by mail order year round. Visit shirtsfromfargo.com and enter “deuce” in the search bar.
The weekend will conclude on Sunday, August 1, with a worship service at Vikur Lutheran Church at 11:00 a.m., after which the North Dakota State Tractor and Pickup Pulling Contest will begin at 1:00 p.m. in what is promised to be “our biggest and best show ever!”
Digested from Fjalla Blað, the newsletter of the Icelandic Communities Association of Northeast North Dakota.
To enjoy the complimentary August 1 Icelandic Festivals issue of L-H click the link below.
Author: Stefan Jonasson
Svavar Gestsson, former Consul General of Iceland in Winnipeg, died on January 18, 2021, at the National University Hospital in Reykjavík, Iceland. He was the first professional diplomat to represent Iceland in Canada and, during his tenure here, he laid the groundwork for the memorable celebration of the millennium of the Vinland voyages by Leifur Eiríksson and other Icelandic explorers.
Svavar was born in Guðnabakki in Stafholtstungur on June 26, 1944 – just nine days after the Republic of Iceland was established – the son of Guðrún Valdimarsdóttir and Gestur Sveinsson. He was the oldest of eight siblings. He graduated from Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík in 1964 and subsequently enrolled in law at the University of Iceland and proceeded to study in Berlin.
Prior to entering Iceland’s Foreign Service, Svavar was a journalist, member of Alþingi, and cabinet minister. He was editor of the newspaper Þjóðviljinn (The People’s Will) from 1971 to 1978, sat in parliament for the People's Alliance from 1978 until 1999, and was a cabinet minister in three governments: Minister of Commerce (1978-1979), Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Social Security (1980-1983), and Minister of Education (1988-1991). From 1995 until 1999, he was parliamentary chair of the People’s Alliance. Svavar resigned from Alþingi in 1999 and spent the next decade as an ambassador, serving in Winnipeg (1999-2001), Stockholm (2001-2005), and Copenhagen (2005-2010).
“Svavar was an expressive politician and orator, but at the same time controversial,” reported Kolbeinn Tumi Daðason in Vísir. “In recent years, he has been accepted as a great spokesman for the Left-Green Movement” and consequently as “a staunch supporter of the current government.” Kolbeinn noted that, “his personal and political story … is intertwined with the history of Iceland for more than half a century” as “a left-leaning man who burned with a sense of justice.”
In retirement, Svavar edited the magazine Breiðfirðingur from 2015 to 2019. He also wrote two books, Sjónarrönd: Jafnaðarstefnan-viðhorf (a volume about socialism) in 1995 and an autobiography, Hreint út sagt, in 2012, as well as countless articles in newspapers and magazines, mostly about politics.
Svavar was a champion of the relationship between Iceland and the Icelandic community in North America. “Icelandic government officials have to pay attention and give encouragement to the Western Icelanders,” Svavar told Hulda Karen Daníelsdóttir in 1989, when he was Iceland’s minister of culture and education. “We must do something to show that their ongoing contributions are of great value.” Reflecting on his visit to North America that year, when he accompanied former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir on her presidential tour, he added: “This visit has helped me gain a fuller and more complete understanding of the history of Iceland itself.” Returning to Winnipeg a decade later as consul general, he continued to build relationships between Icelandic communities in the heart of North America and the people of Iceland. After returning to Iceland at the end of his diplomatic career, he was active in Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga (Icelandic National League of Iceland), serving on its board from 2010 to 2018, and continued to nurture relationships across the sea while encouraging awareness of the Western Icelanders at home.
“Svavar had an inexhaustible interest in politics but especially people,” observed Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who added that he will be remembered as “a man who left deep impressions on the minds of those of us who knew him and who approached life with interest and passion until the end.”
In extending condolences on behalf of the Icelandic National League of North America, its president, Stefan Jonasson, said: “Svavar will be long remembered by his many friends in North America and forever respected for his significant contributions to Icelandic heritage and culture.” Hulda Karen Daníelsdóttir, president of Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga, eulogized Svavar saying, “He was a unique man in so many ways.”
Guy Stewart, a former resident of Winnipeg who now lives in Iceland, said: “He transformed everything he touched for the better. A high, noble character with his feet on the ground – a good match for Guðrún. Who was more of a class act than Svavar Gestsson? Nobody.”
Svavar is survived by his wife, Guðrún Ágústsdóttir, former president of the Reykjavík City Council, and his children: Svandís (who is Iceland's Minister of Health), Benedikt, and Gestur; and also Guðrún’s children: Ragnheiður, Árni, and Gunnhildur. “We will remember him with warmth and gratitude,” said a statement from his family following his death.
Svavar was one of his country’s greatest advocates for socialist values, but his interests and concerns transcended partisanship. He was a champion of democracy, labour, human rights, gender equality, Icelandic language and culture, social inclusiveness, and environmental stewardship. Cultured and refined, Svavar brought dignity to all of his pursuits. He will be greatly missed but fondly remembered, and the stamp he made on public life will be a perpetual memorial to his virtue.
by Sophie Davis
I remember looking at Reykjavík on Google Maps, taking a virtual tour through the city of my would-be home. It seemed surreal. The day that the pictures had been taken was a typical Icelandic day – gloomy, cloudy. Plenty of wind and no trees. Little did I know at the time that all of this grey would be juxtaposed with breathtaking sunsets and sunrises. The setting sun painting the snow-covered mountains pink, or waking up in the morning to a sky like a volcanic eruption. I looked at the architecture and the urban landscape in the winter – Harpa, Perlan, and the buildings built by my husband’s greatgrandfather. All of this architecture reflected the Icelandic landscape somehow; blue-slate surface of the sea, the quenching of the molten sand into glass, ubiquitous grey and black volcanic rock and gravel. In the Icelandic landscape, I could see it all: the geologic time, the history of rifts and ecological trauma. The colors of a young earth world.
My husband, Erik, and I left for Keflavík from Boston on the 4th of August. We were going to live in Reykjavík while Erik studied at the University of Iceland. Erik is an Icelandic citizen through his mother, who had been helping us prepare for our new life all summer. We had some major life changes ahead of us, but first we’d have to make it through the airport during a pandemic.
During COVID-19, every experience that was familiar before seems to demand a new set of rules that are being drafted on the spot. Erik and I soon learned that this was the case as we tried to secure a flight. We felt like pioneers as we navigated the changing terms and conditions, a cancellation, and an unexpected trek from Virginia to Massachusetts the night before our flight. Finally, fresh with excitement and anxiety, Erik and I showed up to Logan Airport early that day, not knowing what to expect. Though we’d called ahead, we soon learned that the terminal for Icelandair wouldn’t open for another eight hours. There was nowhere else to go. We would have to set up camp in the airport and wait until night.
Erik and I took a couple of deep breaths and looked at each other. Clearly this situation was going to require a little creativity. Luckily, my husband had the entire first season of True Detective downloaded on his laptop. We raided the magazine stand for snacks, found an empty row of seats, and put our feet up on our luggage. For the rest of the day, the lobby of the airport became our living room. A little while before they called our flight, I saw a family posting up opposite us with the same idea. Their little girl began dancing all over the big empty floor. I smiled at her before realizing that with my mask on, it must have just looked like a stare.
The empty airport provided plenty of space to socially distance people. It was bizarre. I’d been on many flights as a kid to visit my family in the UK, and every time, I’d had to mentally prepare myself to be corralled like livestock in a herd. But now, I really felt the size of the airport without people in it. It was almost as if we’d found ourselves locked in a mall overnight. We were like ants carrying our tiny loads on our backs to different corners of the airport. In retrospect, this time passed quickly. After some more socially-distanced waiting in another part of the airport, we were finally on the plane.
Being on the airplane usually means rubbing elbows, the smell of airport upholstery (body odor and coffee), and the spilling of your drink when the person in the row ahead of you abruptly leans back in their seat. Not much different here. I guess the airline companies figured that a row of seats erects a sufficient barrier between passengers. My plastic cup of water still sloshed onto our itinerary as the passenger in front of me reclined for the night.
I was so excited for the plane to lift off of the ground that I couldn’t stop squeezing my husband’s hand. I was grinning so hard that my dimples pushed my mask up into my eyes. I’ll always remember this excitement, and how I couldn’t read, sleep, or watch any of the in-flight movies for the whole journey because I was so nervous. For six hours, I watched our little cartoon plane cross the Atlantic on the flight tracker map.
As soon as the plane touched the ground in Iceland, it really hit me what we had done. We’d left our families and friends behind, and with the future of the pandemic so uncertain, it was unclear when we’d see them again. This was our first time as newlyweds that I’d realized what it meant to be married. We were a unit, a team, and a bastion facing a tide of change and chaos in the world. Of course there would be challenges ahead, but I felt confident in that moment.
One challenge was enduring the Q-tip that came soaring up my nostril the moment we stepped off of the plane. They had cordoned us into makeshift cubicles for testing once we had stepped off. I knew this was coming, but I was still unprepared, and dazed from the lack of sleep. “Woah! Can I just –” I started, but it was already done. I walked out of the cubicle pinching my nose. It felt like they had taken something. Maybe the groggy part of my brain? I was wide awake now!
We got into our rental car and began the drive home from Keflavík. For miles, all I saw were black rocks like rolling hills covered in brilliant green moss. It was true: there were no trees, only here and there a cluster of pines huddled together for warmth. I looked at the clouds, so low to the earth. “We’re at the top of the world!” I told Erik excitedly. He nodded. He knew the landscape well.
When we got to our apartment, we hauled our luggage inside and collapsed on the couch. We looked at each other. “What now?” Erik asked me jokingly. I thought of all of the things that one hopefully does when moving to another country: learning the language, exploring on foot to make a mental map of your surroundings, meeting neighbors, finding jobs. Luckily, my job allowed me to work remotely. Erik’s classes would be online for the foreseeable future. We had two weeks of quarantine ahead of us.
“We stay inside,” I said.
Two weeks after we’d taken our second test and quarantined, we went for a walk in downtown Reykjavík. Erik was suddenly struck by a craving for pylsur.
“Hot dogs?” I said, “But it’s 4 degrees Celsius!”
“No, trust me, you want one too,” he said.
He weaved through the streets in central Reykjavík like a dog on the hunt until we reached “Bæjarins beztu pylsur.” Erik ordered three dogs “með öllu,” and we sat among the pigeon-picked benches to dig in. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture. The combination of raw and fried onions is ingenious.
“I love the two types of mustard,” I said.
“Haven’t you ever had remoulade?” he asked, laughing at me with his mouth full. He was now on his second.
The last time I’d eaten a hot dog had been as a kid at a Cleveland Indians baseball game. I was sitting in the nosebleed section on a steaming July day, leaning over the rails with an acute sense of vertigo, a fear of my dog slipping out of the bun, landing on the field and disrupting the game below. Now, I was surrounded by Icelanders. They were lined up outside the stand in t-shirts and shorts. I had my winter coat and boots on. This would be the first time I’d ever eat a hot dog in a down jacket, but definitely not the last.