A shrill battle cry pierces the air. The warriors, small but fierce, dash into the melee with swords held high. A goat bleats from a rooftop nearby.
It’s a lot more excitement than one might expect from the small log building behind Red Deer’s Recreation Centre, but thirty years is an important milestone and the Norwegian Laft Hus wanted to celebrate.
The square has a serene and enchanting quality when one stumbles upon it on a quieter day. Trees and picnic benches provide a small oasis in Red Deer’s city centre and the Laft Hus enjoys a privileged position in the heart of the park. Its natural aesthetic, the result of its log walls and grassy roof, help it blend into the park’s forested area. To step into the house is to step into a different time, to escape into another era.
Today, hundreds participate in this particular form of time travel. Viking re-enactors, clad in leather and earth-toned garments, stage their battles. Local children participate, armed with foam swords. Flower embroidery and intricate bead-work adorn the bunads of those who take part in the parade around the square and who dance to the traditional Norwegian songs. These styles of dress provide a striking visual representation of a history whose traditions persevere.
The Laft Hus does not simply provide a model of what an 18th century Norwegian farm would look like though. It demonstrates how elements of this lifestyle continue to be practiced through the hard work of people who deeply care about their heritage and their history. Traditions are kept alive through the food we continue to make like lefse and krumkake. Using recipes and techniques that date back hundreds of years, volunteers shared these much-loved specialties with those who came out to celebrate. Through demonstrations of crafts like Hardanger, rosemaling, and Acanthus carving, other members of the Laft Hus shared the beauty of their traditions and of the creations that continue to emerge from them.
Of course, no representation of farm life would be complete without farm animals. Fjord horses, the beautiful animals named after Norway’s characteristic landscape, came all the way from Minnesota to join in the festivities. It was the three goats who had the best view of the celebration though. The natural caretakers of any authentic sod-roof, the goats were at home on the Laft Hus’ grassy exterior.
It is the intersection of generations that truly preserves tradition. The Laft Hus’ 30th Anniversary drew people of all ages. Founding members of the house shared their stories and children enjoyed all the festival had to offer in the way of games and crafts, whether they were creating Viking longships out of foam and wire or participating in a Norwegian-themed ball toss. Both fun and instructive, the festival was a celebration of community and an expression of the traditions that make every culture unique.
The Laft Hus is open on Wednesdays year-round from 9am-3pm. From June 1st – August 31st, the Laft Hus is open from 9am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday and from noon until 5pm on Sundays.