The Michigan Nordic Fire Festival is celebrating its fourth year Feb. 22-24 at Lincoln Park in Charlotte. The Fire Festival is a gathering for young and old alike to come together and experience the Viking lifestyle, from the food and stories to spear-throwing competitions.
“We take pride in the reputation we’ve garnered for being family-friendly and kid-friendly,” said Bryan Myrkle, the community development director for the city of Charlotte. “Our festival is a safe place for you and your kids to come and have fun. Things like spear-throwing, ax-throwing, horn-blowing, feats of strength and similar contests get a lot of people involved and are a ton of fun. Kids can get into face-painting and hair-braiding. They can meet a Nordic princess, hear storytellers or work off some energy by ‘fighting’ each other with foam swords in a boffer pit. They can make their own souvenir ax and shield, write their name in runes and learn Viking games.”
When the festival started in 2015, 1,500 were in attendance. Last year, over 6,500 people came, and more are expected this year. Myrkle said that the rising success was due to a couple things, “… between the ‘Vikings’ TV show, ‘Game of Thrones’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the whole medieval theme is really popular right now, as is costume play or cosplay. … No one else is doing this in the winter … and there are tons of people who love these kinds of festivals.”
When the idea for the first Fire Festival came around, Myrkle had been thinking about trying to bring something new to the community. “I noticed that there seemed to be a fairly significant gap in community activities between the end of the holiday season and mid-June when we have the Celebrate Charlotte Festival,” Myrkle said. “I wanted to come up with something that would get people out of their houses and doing something active and community-oriented sometime during those long winter months.”
The idea for the medieval theme was based off re-enactments already happening close to the community. After asking the public’s opinion about the idea, Myrkle and William SaintAmour of Cobalt Community Research met with Tim McCumber, who Myrkle called, “A local Viking enthusiast and serious re-enactor.”
“We assembled a small team of local volunteers with the idea of doing a modest festival based on a Nordic/Viking theme,” Myrkle said. “We decided to make it both history- and fantasy-oriented so that it appeals to a wider variety of people. We put the first festival together on a shoestring, and it worked out much better than any of us really expected.
“Probably the one thing that everyone enjoys more than anything else is seeing all the people in their garb,” he added. “That garb ranges from very, very authentic, historically dressed re-enactors, to others who look like they just stepped out of the pages of a Viking or medieval comic book. Some of these people have spent literally thousands of dollars on their costumes, and it definitely shows.”
The Michigan Nordic Fire Festival will be at 620 W. Shepherd St. in Charlotte. Tickets are $8 for one person for one day, $10 for one person for a weekend, $20 for a family for one day, and $25 for a family for the weekend. You can find more information on the festival’s Facebook page, @minordicfirefestival.