Little Norway Festival in Petersburg Alaska

Petersburg, Alaska, was settled by Norwegian Peter Buschmann in 1897 and still retains its Norwegian heritage. This annual tradition – celebrated since 1958- honors the Norwegian culture brought by the pioneers who settled in this city more than a century ago and is celebrated on Norway’s Independence Day, May 17th (Syttende Mai). It also marks Armed Forces Day and occurs around the start of visiting season. People from across Alaska visit Petersburg for the festival, and it’s an excellent showcase for the community. The Festival dates are the third weekend in May, coinciding with May 17th.

This is one of the most significant events of the year. Draped in Norwegian flags, the city’s main street is blocked off as protesters in Norwegian helmets parade in a dragon-prowed Viking ship down Nordic Avenue. The entire community celebrates throughout downtown, a Scandinavian pageant, the festival parade, Vikings and Valkyries wandering the streets, a walk-run race, ending the four days of celebration with a community at Sandy Beach, located 1.6 miles from downtown; this park marks a spot historically crucial to Alaska Natives. Traditional Norwegian foods like Fårikål (Mutton and Cabbage), Lapskaus (Stew), Kjøttkaker (Meatballs), Smalahove (Sheep’s Head), among others, the Annual Festival Parade on Main Street, the Herring Toss, and traditional performances bring the town’s Scandinavian heritage to life.

Few small towns in Alaska are as well organized and welcoming as Petersburg. You’ll feel like you walked into someone at a friend’s family reunion and were adopted. Visitors that arrive on a ferry are greeted with a city map and a calendar event ranging from rosemaling classes, openings, and a Scandinavian dress parade to pageants, open houses, a seafood buffet, and a local play.