Plans afoot for Viking village
Michelle and Eric Forbes have brought The Kimberley City Bakery Medieval Festival to Kimberley for the last four years, and this year boasted a total of 76 Vikings, with a Viking village of over 30 tents, as well as a parade, Medieval Village, vendors, a Viking ship where people spent the weekend taking selfies, and more.
“It was the largest Viking Village this year at Kimberley that we’ve seen in Canada, probably in all of North America,” Jason Cripps, Jarl and leader of the Sons of Fenrir said of this year’s gathering. “It’s a great festival, and everyone wanted to come out for the last year.”
The Kimberley City Bakery Medieval Festival started four years ago with 20 Vikings and about a dozen tents. Each year the festival has brought in over 10,000 people, through years of rain, extreme heat, fire bans, and wind.
“The weather hasn’t always cooperated,” says Eric Forbes, “but it has always kept us on our toes, and adds to the authenticity of the Viking Village. And the Viking re-enactors do an amazing job of educating the public in a way that is interesting and fun for everyone. I’m still learning every time I go and sit with them.”
While bakery owners Michelle and Eric Forbes will be stepping away from the Medieval Festival, the festival will still continue, with a new group stepping up to take it over.
In a surprise announcement at the close of this year’s festival, Michelle Forbes announced that not only will the festival continue under new ownership, but that in addition to the festival, there are plans to build a year-round Viking village, called the RavenStone Project.
Jen Silverhorse, one of the founders of the group, is looking forward to carrying on the festival, and to using it as the foundation for the new Viking village in the area. “Most learning these days, is something we do out of books, and a lot of skills, we are starting to lose, because there is no place people can go and learn these skills,” she said.
RavenStone is set to be one of these places, which will bring together artisans, those skilled with taking care of animals, tilling the land, and running the village in a similar way to how Viking villages were run long ago.
Silverhorse plans to continue the yearly Medieval Festival in Kimberley, with the current focus on Vikings being maintained. She believes that with Brooks Medieval Faire’s focus on Medieval history, the Kimberley Medieval Festival brings a different part of history to life, during the Viking time, giving people a chance to experience history on a broader spectrum.
Silverhorse and associates have already taken over Brooks Medieval Faire, and are working to build a historically accurate Medieval Settlement near Brooks, working with the University of Calgary to make it as historically accurate as possible. Both projects are being funded through grants from the government, tourism, and other agencies that are helping to make these projects possible, but even so, there are always obstacles to overcome.
With the gap between historical accuracy and modern building codes, the group has created a board to oversee working with different government agencies to ensure that everything is done to code. In addition to people working on different aspects of the project, they will be looking to bring on people who are knowledgeable about Viking history and diverse skills that were important in Viking times. They will be looking for about 50 people.
“We would like to have people come who have some bush-craft experience. They would need to know how to build things, how to do the metalsmithing that they would need, some animal husbandry, some gardening techniques, some stone masonry, all of the skill sets that you would have needed in a settlement of that time.”
Preferences are for people with a strong knowledge of Viking or Norse history, and they are also open to people with families.
With knowledge coming out about Vikings being some of the most sought after artisans of their times, including leading edge technology for silversmithing, metalsmithing, animal husbandry, some of their art work, stone masonry, their carvings, Silverhorse hopes to reclaim some of these forgotten and lost skills through creation of this settlement, and create a way to share them and pass them on to the rising generations.
They hope to include a gift shop and learning centre, offering tools, utensils, clothing and food made on site, in addition to offering kits of different crafts people can make themselves and Viking cooking classes. They are currently looking for a few people to join the core group to organize this venture, and are looking forward to what the future has to hold.
They have already begun talking to Tourism BC, Tourism Cranbrook, Tourism Kimberley, as well as chamber contacts, and are hoping to work with city officials or the RDEK to bring their vision to a reality.
To follow their progress, see their Facebook page.
Lead image: A look at part of the Viking village from this past weekend’s Medieval Festival in Kimberley. Ian Cobb and Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW photos