I’ve eaten eight different meats! I’m a true renaissance man: The Midsomer Feast at Camlann

camlann entrance

It comes as no surprise to anyone that most of the medieval and renaissance faires are a little light on the historical accuracy. People expect bold knights jousting on stately horses, queens doing queen stuff, turkey legs the size of a toddler, and signs with “ye olde” in front of them. I’ve previously stated that “The best part about visiting a medieval faire, ANY medieval faire, is that none of them are authentic.” And that was misinformed–because Camlann Medieval Village aims to be the counterpoint to those faires, a living 14th century historical museum, complete with monthly medieval feasts served with meticulously researched recipes.

Because these sorts of things are always more fun in groups, I recruited some friends to partake in the pageantry and excitement of the Midsomer Festival. Archery! Sheep patting for young and old! Minstrelsy and puppet shows! All capped with a twelve course feast! And the truly adventurous could rent period garb onsite to really get into the spirit of the day. We joked about having to send our reservations in by mail, wondering if they’d be rejected because they weren’t properly sealed with wax or delivered by trained raven. The only problem was figuring out when and where we should all meet, because everyone had different obligations and goals for the day. I decided to try and arrive early just so I wouldn’t miss anything.

candle dipping

archery at camlann

blacksmith sheep chasing

medieval style sheep shearing

sheep

I needn’t have worried about missing anything, as there was actually very little going on. The sheep had zero interest in being patted by the young or the old, the archery and candle dipping were only available to those who paid an additional fee, and it was over 90 degrees in the shade so there was no way on earth I was going to layer a neck to ground crushed velvet dress on top of my street clothes. So after I looked at the blacksmith and the potter and felt like a fool interacting with a historical reenactor (she invited us into her cottage and I read at the entrance that you weren’t supposed to ask any modern questions so I fumbled around and eventually came up with “Uh..what manner of..uh, fowl, doth that wing be from?” which I’m sure was completely wrong in both language and phrasing and then when she answered, I nodded, looked pensive for a second and was like “Well…bye!”), I sent a message to the group warning them to push back their arrival closer to the feast. I then farted around, taking pictures, and eventually made my way to Boar’s Hede Inn in the hopes of getting something to drink. I waited, and waited, and eventually a man in a historical outfit came to the front and asked if he could help us. When I inquired as to whether they sold beverages, he told me that just then they were only serving a hot meal.

Ooookaaay. So I understand that they’re trying for historical accuracy and that a coke machine would look really out of place plugged into their book shoppe, but it is a problem that the only way to get a drink of water in the entire village is to beg the workers to take a sip from their communal cuppe. It is more than a problem, it is fucking ridiculous to encourage people to traipse around in winter-weight fabric during a heat wave and have nothing on site for them to drink. It’s asking for heat stroke and a lawsuit. The actors were apologetic but said that Camlann has been struggling financially and can’t afford to hire people to sell drinks, which I don’t understand, because drinks are generally profit centers. EVEN SO, if they don’t want to hire someone and outfit them in period garb and buy and store and keep track of more stuff and deal with the increased amount of garbage (which I understand), they should at least make it clear on their website and at their entrance that they don’t provide these services and encourage people to bring their own. Especially if they’re already struggling financially. All they need is one kid to keel over and they’re done.

boars hede     water barrel

ladies room  mens room

musical performance

puppet show

rustic fences

scenery and greenery   village and bunting

I ended up leaving and killing time in town with a beverage until about an hour before the feast, at which point I decided that the only way to properly get back into the spirit of things was to buy myself a flower crown. And where Camlann lacked in their guest services, they made up for it in flower crownnery. The wonderful woman who made my crown (whom I later found out is a friend of a friend, because I live in a very small world) asked how big and bold I wanted my crown to be, and I told her that I wanted it to look like a garden had exploded on my head, and ideally I should be able to use it to camouflage myself in case a bear wandered by. She was happy to oblige and made me the most hands-down-flipping-gorgeous piece of headwear I’ve ever seen, much less worn. I felt like Queen Titania, only jeans-clad and sweaty.

flower crown making

baller flower crown

dinner call

Eventually the appointed time came, and my friends and I met up outside the Boar’s Hede, not quite knowing what to expect. They don’t allow any photography or video into their feasts (presumably for reasons of ambiance), though they did post the menu online so we’d have some idea of what we’d be eating:

Cours i

TRENCHER BREAD (to eat & to eat upon)

CHYCHES (chickpeas roasted)

A SOMER SALAT (herbs, greens & flowers)

JOWTES OF ALMOND MILK (sweet almond worts)

MYLATES OF PORK (a pork & cheese tart)

STEKYS OF BEF (cinnamon-pepper steaks)

ERBOLE (plum & wine pudding )

Cours ii

BLACK PORRAY (sauteed leeks & bacon)

EOWTES OF FLESSH (potherbs cooked in broth)

BRUET OF SARCYNESSE (sweet beef ragout)

BLAUNCH PORRE (sweet leeks & quail)

AQUAPATYS (boiled cloves of garlic)

STRAWBERYE  (a berry and almond pudding)

After some confusion about where to line up, we were all led inside and downstairs to their feasting hall that was elaborately decorated floor to ceiling in medieval art and seated around benches shoulder to shoulder and told how things were going to go. First we were to rinse our hands with their floral water (because we’d be eating with our fingers), then we’d be given a trencher (a large round circle of bread, much like the bottom half of a hamburger bun) to place our other courses upon. We could also eat our trencher, but were instructed to do so sparingly so as to not find ourselves without a plate. Food was to be served family style, passed down the row to about twelve people, and if I thought it was hard to to visually gauge a one-sixth portion of a thai lunch, it was even harder to gauge a one-twelfth portion, which meant that I took tiny dribbles of everything and the dudes at the end who didn’t need to worry about the appetites of their neighbors ate like damn hell ass kings.

boars hede innI snuck one photo because I’m a bad person and an enemy of ambiance. But look at how beautiful this medieval hall is!

 My impressions of the first course were as follows: meh. The trencher was ok, and the salad was just bitter green leaves by themselves. The cinnamon pepper steaks were oddly sweet in a not-pleasing fashion. The crust on the pork and cheese tart was very good, however, and while the bowl of almond worts looked like curdled milk barf that I was very hesitant about spooning onto my trencher (which probably also has something to do with their “no photos” policy), it was good as well, as were the plums. About ten minutes after we had started eating, we were served a small amount of wine or juice, according to our preference.

The room grew hotter and hotter and though we started as a group of forty strangers, we began to bond over our shared misery. One of the guys at the end of our serving row talked about the Buckley Renaissance Faire’s ice cold pickle wench so longingly you’d think she granted wishes rather than sold pickles. I demanded to speak to the Lord of Camlann because I had some grievances to air. People started begging for more to drink, saying that they’d pay extra, and were denied. We joked about this being what feasts in hell must be like. Someone on the other end of the long table tried asking about the food in ye olde Englishe and everyone laughed. People started clanging their pewter cups with their knives, and as we sweated and our stomachs rumbled and our mouths ached for moisture, it began to feel like the kind of environment in which peasants revolt and begin burning down buildings. What is it with this place and beverages? I understood going in that Camlann was not Medieval Times, but is there something about perpetual thirstiness and the serfs that I missed in history class? For my $45, I didn’t expect knights jousting in front of my table, giving me their favors with all of the pageantry you’d find at some other kind of medieval faire, but I did expect that my basic needs would be met.

To kill time while the cooks were clearly struggling in the kitchen, the same guy acted as our “courtly minstrel” and sang us a couple of deeply cringeworthy songs, one of which was about riddles and somehow made me hate riddles more than I already do, which I’d previously assumed was an impossibility. FINALLY the second course came out, and after that, our second thimble of wine. Second course: Also mostly meh. The leeks and bacon were good, but that was pretty much the only standout. The strawberry and almond pudding was essentially jam. The sweet beef was really unpleasantly sweet, and what I’m assuming was the leeks and quail (chicken at our feast) was mixed with some kind of dry ginger spice and not mixed well, because in my small portion, I got a huge pocket of spice in my mouth and it was horrendous. I was so glad that I’d brought a bottle of water back with me from town, but even that was at the dregs.

After all was said and done, we were told that Camlann is a nonprofit and should any of us feel so moved as to write them a verrye larrge cheqque, that it would be much appreciated, and for a mere $100,000, I could have my likeness rendered into a stained glass window as a saint, which I feel is a bargain at any price. I obviously can’t fling around 100k, but I do very much like the idea of Saint Mellzah, Picker at Food and Swearer of Swears.

stained glassI then enjoyed a thirteenth course of Menchie’s, pantsless, in my flower crown and didn’t share anything with anyone. It was glorious.

 

 

 

Spotted on the Roadside: The Teapot Dome in Zillah, WA

teapot dome gas station

teapot-dome

In the 1920s, the nation was, well, scandalized by the Teapot Dome Scandal, when the government leased United States oil reserves to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding. This being before the age of internet petitions and just yelling in the comments section all day long, citizens had to demonstrate their discontent in other ways. Richard Thomas of Zillah felt that the best way to cry out “Not MY President” was to build a gas station in the shape of a teapot. No longer in service (and in fact, the oil field in question was sold this year), the teapot dome itself has been restored and is a constant reminder that the government is probably up to something that’s not in your best interests. It’s now on the national register of historic places and remains a fine example of American pop architecture.

Spotted on 1st Ave in Zillah, WA

Granger, Washington: The Dinosaur Town with Volcano Toilets

wire frame dino granger

welcome to granger

bustin loose

Brachiosaurus

ankylosaurus

big grin

dino riding

onward to victory

crested dinoaur

mellzah prattkeeping

dino munching on leaves

dinosaurs in granger wa

mama dino and nest

Parasaurolophus

pteradactyl granger

spotted through the reeds\plesiosaur

stego on the hill

styracosaurus

t rex

trike

volcano toilets

Only one dinosaur bone has ever been found in the state of Washington (an unidentified theropod in the San Juan islands), but that didn’t stop the small town of Granger from conspiring to capitalize on Jurassic Park mania in 1993. In 1994, the first dinosaur statue was produced, and their collection has grown by leaps and bounds since, with around thirty concrete dinosaurs scattered around the town. Driving around to see them is like being on a much safer, easier-to-spot safari. There’s also significantly less chance of a mauling, though it came close when I was repeatedly heckled by some little bastard children out a car window because I dared to climb on and ride a baby brontosaurus like god and nature intended, losing a shoe in the attempt. “Boo! Boo! You suck!” over and over and over. It might not be strictly polite to dropkick someone else’s child, but I think the rules of society occasionally allow for it. After all, it takes a village. I made do with “I can see you, you little shits!” and they piped down. Score one for profanity and vague threats.

There was also a slight risk of mauling by dinosaur descendants. I visited at the peak of nesting season, and several species of birds made it clear that we were not welcome in the area. None so clear as the goose that hissed and charged at Jason while his back was turned. I warned him in time which I feel makes up for my failure during The Pony Incident™ of ’14.

Although a few of Granger’s dinosaurs have “battle damage”, most of them have sweet and goofy expressions, not unlike the dinosaurs of Dinosaur World. Unlike Dinosaur World, the dinosaurs of Granger are a little worse for wear, but they are free to gander at, ride, and generally make an ass of oneself in public. It’s also evidently a prime public makeout spot, even at high noon on a Sunday, and I have some spectacular photos of people grinding intently on each other’s laps that I took by complete accident. Whoooops. Take that action into the privacy of the volcano toilets, people.

Hippy lady? I’m ready to get out now: an hour in a sensory deprivation tank

“You’re about to take a journey into the mind. You may see and experience things that are strange and frightening, but remember, they can’t physically harm you. Though they may destroy you mentally.”

The Simpsons, Make Room For Lisa

Sometimes I don’t know why I feel the desire to do the things that I do. Friends asked me why on earth I would want to try sensory deprivation, and I had no cogent response. Maybe I wanted some really alone time. Maybe I wanted to shut the world out for a while. Maybe I wanted to see if I’d trip balls when my brain had nothing else to do. All I knew was that someone was selling sessions to hang out naked in a salt-filled techno pod for an hour at a crack, so I might as well try it. I don’t know about all of the OTHER minutes that encompass the history of human experience, but a sucker was definitely born the second I popped out into the world.

I started out in the “pre-float lounge” before my appointment. I’d dutifully followed their email instructions, refraining from caffeine, not shaving that day, and scheduling plenty of time to arrive and park so I wouldn’t show up harried and stressed. I then signed a waiver basically stating that if I managed to injure myself while floating or on their property that I wouldn’t sue–they didn’t mention anything about the mind cracking and breaking from the lack of external stimuli, but I suppose that’s covered under the general terms. After that, I watched a video on a provided tablet about how to use the pods, what to do to prep for your session and how to finish your session, with a lot of hard sell about how it might take you a few floats to get the hang of things, how Olympic athletes have used floating to improve their times, how people have used floating to heal injury, and maybe something about how floating on an endless sea of the salty tears of your enemies rejuvenates the blood and fills you with the powers of Poseidon. I don’t know, I might have tuned out a little. It’s floating, not rocket science, and I’m about as far from an Olympic athlete as a person can be, so I had my doubts that floating was going to magically unlock my pole vaulting potential.

lounge

release

After I signed my life away, I was escorted to a room with a bench, a shower, and a glowing pod that looked a lot like a clog would in Tron. The employee again explained how the session would work: take a shower beforehand (no conditioner), pop in earplugs, turn off the light in the room, and enter the tank. At that time, I had to choose whether I wanted music pumped into the pod for the duration of my float or silence, with a bit of music starting when I had five minutes left in the tank. I figured if I was going to do sensory deprivation, I should go whole hog and elected for silence. As far as things I could control from the pod itself, I could experiment with leaving the lid open or closing it completely, and having a blue light, white light, or total darkness inside the pod. I could control the lights from a button on my lefthand side. On my righthand side was another, identical button that I should press if I have a panic attack or other medical emergency and need assistance from an employee. Also on the left was a spray bottle with pure water in case I got salt into my eyes, and on the right was a pool noodle in case I needed something to prop under my head during the session. After the session was over, I was to exit the pod, take another shower, take out my earplugs, and rinse my ear canals with vinegar. After the explanations, I didn’t have any questions, and I was left alone to do my thing.

   sensory deprivation tank

Once I was in the pod, I decided that again, if I was going to do this thing, I should do it all the way, so I shut the pod completely and pushed the light switch until I was in complete darkness. The first few minutes went something like “OH MY GOD IT IS SO DARK AND SMALL IN HERE THE BLACKNESS IS CRUSHING ME I AM DYING” but I acclimated to it fairly quickly. The general idea with a sensory deprivation tank is that the water and the air are held at skin temperature, so that you’re unable to tell where your body ends and the environment begins. This didn’t quite work for me–I could definitely tell which parts of me were in water and which were not. What I didn’t have any frame of reference for was how my body was oriented, and my mind definitely began to play tricks on me. I felt like I was spinning around on my back, that I was flipping end over end in the void of space. It was eerie. I struggled with turning my brain off, constantly self-narrating the experience and then telling myself to shut up shut up shut up and just experience it. They suggested a few different arm positions while in the tank, and I tried them all. My least favorite was with my arms crossed on my chest, which made me feel like nothing so much as a vampire in a space coffin. And once that experimentation started, I found it hard to stop. I goofed off in there a lot, seeing what positions I could twist my body into with the aid of 1200 pounds of salt water, once almost accidentally flipping myself onto my stomach with all of the splashing and flailing that entailed. I swooshed my legs around like a half-assed mermaid. I pulled my head out of the water repeatedly because I enjoyed the sensation of the water running off my scalp when it was the only thing I could feel. I began to wonder how much the people outside the room could hear of what I was doing inside–about the only thing I didn’t do in the tank was sing little songs to myself, which is what I usually do when I’m bored. I tried, but it was so loud that I stopped at the first hum. Even blinking seemed incredibly loud, which may have been a function of the tank and the keening of my senses, or the fact that I had earplugs crammed in my ears which makes everything going on inside your body seem louder.

The hour seemed both long and short at the same time–when the first strains of music started swelling into the pod, I was surprised. I knew I’d spent some time playing and experimenting and imagining things because I felt like I had so much time to kill, but then when it was over, it didn’t feel like an entire hour had elapsed. Either way, I was glad that I had noted which accessory was on which side of the tank, because owing to my short stature, I had completely flipped around in the pod and the emergency button was now where I would have otherwise believed the light switch to be and having someone bust in the room to rescue my salty ass would have been just a little bit awkward.

I still can’t pole vault for shit.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Church of God-Zillah

church of god zillah

jesus saves

zillah and shadow

In the town of Zilla, WA, is a glorious pun come to life…or half-life anyway. It all started as a joke, with the reverend of the then Christian Worship Center being called the leader of the Church of God-Zillah, and being a B-movie fan, he decided to embrace it and build a fire and brimstone-breathing lure to get people to come to church. Not being one to be too prideful of his creation, however, it’s tucked behind the church instead of out front–if you didn’t go looking for it, you would have no idea it’s there. It’s my understanding that they originally intended to skin it and outfit it with motion detectors so its eyes would light up as cars passed by, but given that it was constructed almost fifteen years ago and no progress has been made on that front, the saddest little ‘zilla in Zillah languishes naked before god and everyone. All I know is if a dino with glowing red eyes showed up on my doorstep and asked if I had moment to talk about our lord and savior, I wouldn’t shut the door in his face.

Spotted on Cheyne Rd in Zillah, WA

City of Roses: Portland’s International Rose Test Garden

ombre roses

peppermint roses

pink edged roses

pink roses

pointed petals

arches

portland international rose test garden

purple spike flowers

red and fuschia roses

red roses

smelling the roses

soft light yellow roses

sorbet roses

vibrant yellow center

white edged roses

white pink red gradiant rose

gorgeous hydrangeas

a tip of the hat statue

a jaunty bronze hat

In 1905, Portland held a Lewis and Clark Exposition for the 100th anniversary of the duo’s stay in Oregon. For that grand event, the city planted half a million pink rosebushes along Portland’s streets. Two years later, in 1907, the “city of roses” held its first annual Rose Festival, a tradition which is alive and well today (as are many of the original rosebushes!).

Portland has long had a reputation for being where the weird comes to flourish, and it even holds true for their rose gardens. In 1917, rose enthusiasts came up with the idea of creating an American rose test garden, and not long after that, the International Rose Test Garden came to be. Portland also served as a “safe haven” for hybridized roses from Europe during World War I. Owing to their mild climate, roses absolutely thrive in Portland, and the International Rose Test Garden is a way for the worldwide rose enthusiast community to try different varietals for disease resistance, fragrance, and color as well as other desirable attributes.

From May through October, you can see and smell nearly 550 varietals of roses in the test garden, though they are at their heady, glorious peak in June (which coincides with Portland’s Rose Festival). And definitely take the time to stop and smell them all! They blew me away with their vibrancy, their color, their scent, and the way they aren’t just woody, thorny, shitty sticks like the roses I’ve tried to grow in my yard. Or the $50 hydrangea I planted this year that committed plant suicide a week later. Portland, lend me some of your flower-growing voodoo!

What’s the point of having a Hyundai if you can’t show it off a little?

“You know, I used to think a car was just a way of getting from point A to point B, and on weekends, point C, but that was the old me. That man died the moment I laid eyes on the 1979 Honda Accord.”

hyundai

This is something that’s been in the works for a while. The Ford Taurus Assault Wagon had long ago gone to that big rubik’s cube of crushed cars in the sky, and while we’d been making do with one car, it was far from ideal, especially since the other car is approaching legal drinking age and has decided that a number of its functions are now optional, like air conditioning and the radio. Not really ideal on summer road trips, especially through desert areas, or really even on cross-town trips now that Seattle is getting the population of a major city without the supporting infrastructure. Sure, we get to advance the fields of scientific study involving human sweat, but sometimes the cost of science is just too high.

We’d done some test driving and tire kicking, and I had my heart fairly well set on the Hyundai Veloster since I first test drove it way back in August 2012. It’s a hatchback that doesn’t look too “sandals with socks” hatchback-y, it gets killer gas mileage, and it still has a functional backseat (unlike the also-ran Honda CR-Z). The only problem? I’m so damn cheap. The thought of buying a brand new car and having it lose significant value the second I drove it off the lot galled me deeply. But I also felt like one of the best selling points for Hyundais was their extended warranty, so buying a depreciated used one didn’t seem like a great value, either. Thus began my search for a “sorta used” Veloster. I believe I typed the word “Veloster” into Craigslist every week between August 2013 and June 2015, and most often, I turned up cars that were a year or two old with extraordinarily high mileage (we’re talking 80-100k miles) and not much cheaper than a brand new model would have been. I didn’t want to pay nearly full price for a car someone else had beaten to shit over a twelve month period and was now out of warranty, so I kept searching. I found a couple others that had low mileage and a relatively low price but had a salvage title–hell no.  Eventually, I found my white whale–a Veloster that was less than two years old (which qualified it for a better financing rate), with only 5,000 miles and was selling for significantly under blue book value. I was so suspicious of the seller, figuring that it had to be a scam. I ran carfax: clean. I called the title department: clean. I checked the guy’s driver’s license against the title: match. It was the situation that everyone hopes for when buying a used car–it was senior owned, and they rarely drove it because they spent most of the year out of state. SCORE.

 veloster front

veloster

There are still a few things the car needs to be perfect (for me), like a phone mount so I can better use it as a GPS–right now, the cubby under the control panel is too big, and the cupholder places it too far back for glancing at the screen without taking my eyes off the road which is a huge no-no. I think I’ll also end up getting a couple of blind spot mirrors for extra visibility and safety’s sake because the blind spots in this car are sizable. But I’ve already made my first non-essential mod, a screensaver with the new name of the car, the Velosteraptor:

velosteraptor

If only I could figure out how to get it to make a raptor sound instead of the startup music, then I’d really be in business! It didn’t really feel like it was mine until I outfitted it with the best keychain ever, though:

keys

It’s been a total dream to drive, the interior is really roomy and the seats are comfortable even on long stretches. I’ve already put on a couple thousand miles on it, and I hope it serves me well for many, many, many more thousands.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Licorice Shrine in Poulsbo, WA

 

There are two licorice camps: people who love black licorice, and people who are wrong. I’m a ride or die black licorice fan, so when I saw that there was a bonafide licorice shrine at the Marina Market in Poulsbo, I had to check it out.

I have never seen so much black licorice in my life. It didn’t encompass just that end cap, but another endcap as well as an entire aisle. Worlds of licorice. I didn’t even know this much black licorice variety existed! I’ve eaten salted black licorice before (and loved it) so this time I opted to try something a bit different: the spookily packaged Heksehyl Weerwolven drops, which have a soft caramel center. Holy moly, the only thing that was spooky was how fast the bag disappeared. I definitely want to try the other Heksehyl licorices (one of them looks like it might have been a minty black licorice, which I’m not sure will be good but I want to try it anyway), and I would never say no to Piratos or basically anything on that display other than red licorice which is an abomination and a crime against the licorice lords. Licorice Shrine, I’ll be back!

 

Spotted on Front Street in Poulsbo, WA

The Poulsbo Aquarium

poulsbo marine science center entrance

octopus over harbor

whale skeleton poulsbo aquarium

california sea cucumber

clown fish

eel

moon jellyfish

mudfish   purple crab

purple starfish

starfish anemone

starfish

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center is a small but delightful aquarium, a cool free place to visit to take a break in your marathon donut eating sessions. It was nearly empty on the day I visited, which meant I got lots of personal attention from the volunteer docent. They don’t believe in “do not touch” and in fact encourage you (after rinsing your hands) to plunge your arms into their tanks up to the elbow and interact with the creatures inside. I learned that if you carefully place your finger between the spines, you’ll get a tiny sea urchin hug. I also learned that when you gently brush a sea anemone, if it feels sticky, that’s because it’s trying to eat you. NOT TODAY, ANEMONE.

My personal favorite was the display of moon jellyfish. It seems hard to believe that something so fragile and beautiful is just bopping around out there in the puget sound, doing its thing. It’s especially cool to have all of these local species available to look at and learn about up on dry land since between my terrible eyesight and my deep mistrust of underwater breathing aparatuses, it’s unlikely that I’ll be going to see them in their natural environment anytime soon. SO NOT TOMORROW, EITHER, ANEMONE.

Viking Fest in Poulsbo, WA

velkommen til poulsbo

As someone who enjoys traipsing about from festival to festival, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about what makes for a good festival versus one that’s mediocre or just plain sad. My general rule of thumb is that for a festival to be really good, it needs to be intrinsic to the identity of the area it’s being held. You need to be able to say, “YES, it totally makes sense that they’re holding this event here.” Like the lavender festival in Sequim. It needs to be an experience that you can only have there. It needs vendors with unique offerings that are enthusiastic about the theme. Otherwise, you end up like the sad strawberry festival in Bellevue, where you go through a parking lot clusterfuck only find a couple of sad strawberry offerings and booths filled with the same insurance and home repair people who are stuffing your mailboxes full of ads that you immediately chuck in the trash. Sure, someone might come out and protest it for some reason (I never realized the lord was so opposed to strawberries) but there isn’t much there to delight people or entice them to return. When I arrived in Poulsbo for the Viking Festival, I knew I was going to have a great time.

Poulsbo was settled by a community of Scandinavian immigrants because the area reminded them of home, and now with its rows of cute colorful houses, it definitely looks the part. Poulsbo is a city that lives and breathes its Scandinavian heritage, and it’s only right and natural that they’d have a viking-stravaganza one weekend a year–it’s so enthusiastic that I’m just surprised it doesn’t involve raids across the sound. Nearly every shop on their main street is viking related, from Thor’s Hammer and Needle Tattoo to The Nordic Maid to Viking Brew to a bookstore focusing on Scandinavian topics to a market filled with special imported foods, the pride in Poulsbo runs deep.

The Town

 accurate viking statueViking king Olaf statuethors hammer and needle shopfrontIf you think Thor’s hammer is impressive, wait until you see his needle Skeradreparekkr–it can piece twelve dudes through the midsection all at once. Or one very lucky lady.

thors hammer and needle

damn tourists

free parking for kings only

king harald vei

viking brew

the nordic maid

viking mural

one way mural

fish mural

trolls den

The Donut Eating Contest

There were back-to-back eating contests the entire second day of the Viking Festival. First donuts, then oysters, then lutefisk. It comes as no surprise to anyone that the greatest number of competitors came out for the donut contests, which were separated into multiple divisions: young children, slightly older children, under 18, adult, and a Guinness world record attempt. The first two groups were judged on the speed eating of one donut. The under 18 and adult division had to speed eat three donuts. The Guinness attempt? Only one donut. One three pound donut.

sluys giant donut

tiny vikings eating donutsThose knit viking helmets are the cutest f’ing thing, and I want one, even though it won’t look half as cute on me.

donut victory

donut competition

viking contemplates giant donut

cheering vikings

I think it was a huge misstep to not advertise that the final competition was a Guinness attempt or the size of the donut involved. The people who signed up clearly had no idea what they were getting into. They weren’t professional eaters (and that’s fine),  but nobody just shows up off the street ready to eat a three pound donut on a whim! The person who came closest to finishing hers said that she had gone to Burger King beforehand, and that all she had wanted was one donut. That, to me, doesn’t sound like someone who was ready to try to be the fastest person in the world to eat a three pound donut. Over the course of a grueling hour and fifteen minutes, the people who signed up were harangued by some local radio personality to keep going, to finish the monstrosity in front of them. It’s rare but not unheard of for stomachs to rupture, and I think it’s irresponsible to peer pressure people who aren’t prepared for the challenge in front of them. Not only was it rough on the contestants, but it was also a slog for the attendees–how long can you sit and watch someone halfheartedly eat? I walked away, did some stuff, came back, and the contest was still going. They eventually cut for time because no one had finished and now it was significantly delaying the rest of the day’s events.

The Paddleboard Races

happy day at the viking festival             viking stand up paddleboardThere were a surprising amount of people signed up for the stand up paddleboard races. They had two races: one was one mile, and the other was five miles. The mile race took just under 23 minutes for the last competitor to cross the finish line, so I didn’t end up sticking around to watch the five mile as there were other things I wanted to see and do while I was in town.

The Rest of the Festival

viking biking

viking helmet

In addition to all of the eating contests and paddleboard races, there were a few different bike rides, a viking crafts center with metal and woodworkers, an area filled with replica nordic jewelry and tools for sale, a place where you could learn a bit of sword and shieldplay, and of course, some places where you could buy food, drinks, and some various trinkets, including something called “viking chips” which is a fried spiralized potato so I’m not really seeing what’s viking about it, and when I try to search for it, the internet assumes I mean “viking ships” so I don’t think vikings were the founders of the modern potato chip after all, and OH I GET IT, IT’S A PUN.  I think the only other thing I could have asked for would have been more viking stuff for sale, because after seeing a bunch of people walking around in them, I really, really wanted a helmet and the only ones for sale anywhere were the cheapo plastic jobbers. I so wanted to slap that helmet with the badass metalwork above on my head and mosey on out of the tent, but it didn’t seem prudent, what with there being armed vikings everywhere. Next year, I’ll be back, with golden braids down to my ass and an appetite for a three pound donut.