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Norwegian Ridgites march in ‘17th of May Parade’

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Sailing in style: Vikings sailed along the avenue in ships armed with spears and shields.
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National pride: Allison and Hannah Reily showed off their Norwegian pride by donning traditional garb.
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Queen of the vikings: Miss Norway and crew greeted Bay Ridgites who lined the avenue.
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Family affair: Madison Schillaci and other tykes came out in force showing off their Norwegian heritage.
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Packed: Hundreds came out to cheer on the Nordic precession.

They were decked out in red, white, and blue — but not for the country you’d think.

An army of Norwegian Ridgites took to Third Avenue for the 65th-annual Norwegian Day parade on May 21. Once a bastion of Scandinavian culture, Bay Ridge’s Nordic community has since dwindled, but every year the parade draws out Norwegians eager to show off their pride for the land of the midnight sun, said one marcher.

“It’s a wonderful celebration that lets us share our traditions,” said Ridgite Anna Pederson, who marched in the parade in a traditional folk costume — known as a bunad — from the Bergen region of Norway, with her 4-year-old grand daughter. “It’s so exciting to see everyone so excited for Norwegian culture, and it’s a great way for me to expose the little one to her roots.”

Hundreds donned Viking garb and traditional Norwegian clothes, which differs depending on what part of the country folks hail from, for the procession that celebrates the signing of Norway’s constitution on May 17, 1814.

The parade is officially known as the 17th of May Parade but is traditionally held on the nearest Sunday. The vibrant march kicked off at Third Avenue and First Street whence it winded its way down to Lief Erikson Park.

Kristen Johnson, who was crowned Miss Norway in April, cruised along the thoroughfare greeting locals who lined the main street. Viking ships sailed behind her, along with a crew of marching bands, accordionists, and bagpipe players.

“I just loved it. There’s not enough events like these that celebrate our culture and to have this in our own backyard is just so cool,” said Bay Ridgite Maria Hagan, whose family is originally from Oslo and initially settled in Sunset Park, where thousands of Scandinavians emigrated stretching back to the 1890s.

And many of those Norwegians moved up to Bay Ridge by the mid-20th Century, which is why the procession is so crucial not only for its historic importance but for keeping the Norwegian traditions alive in Southern Brooklyn.

“It’s a really important celebration for our history,” said Hagan. “But I also think it’s great that people have managed to keep this parade going for so long because it keeps the culture alive in Bay Ridge.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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