By Adam Droscha
It’s not news to any Michigander that many events and festivals have to fit in to a specific time of year. While some festivities are specific to a holiday, there is the yearly struggle to fit as much extra stuff as possible into the warmer months. Winter is always coming, and it’s unforgiving for most outdoor activities. Finally, however, Charlotte and the surrounding area has some exciting winter activities to call it’s own with the Michigan Nordic Fire Festival.
February 24 through 26 anyone looking for an affordable and family friendly break to the winter gloom can find a few heated tents, a great fire, and dozens of Nordic activities located at the sledding hill by the Shepherd Street water tower, just across the street from Lincoln Park. The cost of the event is $2 per person, or $5 for a family. Visitors will be able to watch or participate in many activities like javelin throwing competitions, skills/trades seminars, and various reenactments. Dressing up is welcome at the event, just like any Renaissance festival, but with the Viking theme.
This still blossoming festival is in its second year and is expected to see greater turnout and results. Organizers are expecting almost double the number of visitors as last year, which were about 2,500 strong. In the year between the first and second festival the organizers have worked toward creating a more specialized niche by finding a more palpable balance between true Nordic history and family oriented fantasy. Nordic history buffs can still come expecting authenticity to the festival, and children can come to have their imaginations struck by Viking folklore.
The idea to host a Nordic/Viking themed festival developed over the last few years. While searching for more events to fill the dead space in the calendar, the Can Do! marketing committee hired Cobalt Community Research to analyze what events would be successful for the winter months in the Charlotte area. One of the top results of the research was a prospective Nordic winter festival.
This was both confusing for community event organizers like Bryan Myrkle, and exciting for Norse fanatics like Tim McCumber, or Thor as most people know him. The two men are a couple of the main organizers of the festival. They found a handful of other people who were interested in making the event come to life and moved forward with plans for a 2016 festival.
Myrkle sees a number of factors influencing the research toward a Nordic themed festival. Pop culture especially has emphasized various themes related to Scandinavian lore and culture with shows and movies like Vikings, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings. The upcoming generations are also more involved with activities like LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) and generally dressing up in favored game/movie/nerdom attire.
Thor, who has spent years visiting Nordic festivals and participating in Viking reenactments, is not surprised by the research. He sees the desire to participate in Nordic themed events as an intrinsic part of many Michiganders’ character. Besides the fact that many Michigan natives are descended from Scandinavian countries, the climate of Michigan is in many ways reflective of the northern European countries, and so much of western European culture descends from the influence of Norse culture.
“Vikings are a real part of history, and a lot of people don’t appreciate how influential the Vikings actually were,” said Thor. “There’s kind of this one negative view of how mean and dangerous they were, but they influenced lots of things.”
The opportunities at the festival will be copious. Parking at the festival grounds will be limited, but there will be overflow parking available at Charlotte High School, and shuttle buses will be provided to bring visitors from the high school to the festival grounds. Located at The Hall in downtown Charlotte there will also be mead from Black Dragon Meadery in Benton Harbor and locally brewed beer from Brewery Becker in Brighton. Organizers of the event are still looking for volunteers, as well as potential committee members for future festivals. Those wanting to learn more about the Michigan Nordic Fire Festival can find the event on Facebook, or at its website minordicfirefestival.com.