Photo courtesy of the Norwegian 17th of May Committee

Syttende Mai featured guests advocate for the past, present and future of Ballard’s cultural and economic vitality

By Emile Monte

Grand Marshall Marit Kristiansen and Honorary Marshalls Mari-Ann Kind Jackson and Warren Aakervik have much in common: Norwegian heritage, roots in the Ballard community, ongoing social service, and a humble wonderment over the fact of being chosen as the honorary guests at this year’s particularly special Syttende Mai (17th of May) festivities marking the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution and the 125th anniversary of Ballard’s celebration of its Norwegian heritage.

Together, these guests represent and serve disparate organizations and projects who share the ultimate goal of maintaining the cultural and economic vitality of Ballard.

Grand Marshall Marit Kristiansen is both excited and feeling the pressure to advocate for how Ballard’s Norwegian heritage is relevant to the here and now. A member of the Sons of Norway organization since 1968, Kristiansen says that Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans “have a lot to be proud of.” She is one of many advocates who work to bridge the gap between modern Ballard and modern Norway by taking part in an organization that offers classes on Nordic language and culture (“If you lose the language, you lose a large part of who you are.”) as well as embraces the culture of Norway today by promoting publications, like Viking Magazine, on contemporary Nordic innovations and aesthetic. Kristiansen is especially inspired by the enthusiasm of the youth population she witnesses every year while marching in the Syttende Mai parade. She hopes that enthusiasm will carry forward and inspire younger generations to get involved in Sons of Norway.

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Grand Marshall Marit Kristiansen

Honorary Marshall Mari-Ann Kind Jackson has a vision for spotlighting the cultural and personal history of Ballard’s Norwegian community. Associated with the Norwegian Heritage Museum since 1988, Kind Jackson participates in the Museum’s efforts to make Nordic culture accessible by featuring traditional artifacts and contemporary art and offering Nordic language classes. She’s particularly excited about the Museum’s immanent relocation to a brand new facility on Market St. between 26th and 28th. Facing the canal by which the Nordics first settled the area, Kind Jackson says, “the new museum is designed to bridge the old world with the new,” offering to the walking traffic on the way to the Locks a soaring entry hung with Nordic boats and a café featuring traditional Nordic cuisine. Kind Jackson is especially interested in “the value of sharing,” and so furthermore participates in the Voices of Ballard documentary project which interviews Norwegian-American Ballard residents about their experiences in Norway during WWII. Kind Jackson looks forward every year to walking in the Syttende Mai parade with her four grandchildren, because it’s “the biggest and most visible event celebrating Norwegian culture” in the community. From experience, Kind Jackson knows that on May 17th, “Ballard will come alive.”
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Honorary Marshall Mari-Ann Kind Jackson

Honorary Marshall Warren Aakervik is looking to the future and he means business. It was the Norwegians who raised Ballard on the back of their traditional Maritime Industry and Aakervik, of Norwegian descent and president of Ballard Oil, is concerned with educating the younger generations of the Ballard community on the socioeconomic value of a now often misunderstood and overlooked industry. Nowadays, when people think of the economic vitality of Seattle, they think of Microsoft and Boeing, but Aakervik would remind us that “when the Norwegians brought in fishing, they brought the economic engine of Seattle,” a fishing industry that remains “the largest in the country, bringing in a billion dollars each year.”

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Honorary Marshall Warren Aakervik

Aakervik is concerned with fostering a community that recognizes the need to be responsible for itself, a community that asks itself, “What is our future and how are we going to fund it?” Aakervik could have retired years ago, but he still feels the need to be socially active and to participate in cultural events that bring the Ballard community together. “I can’t give up on my community,” he said. “If I could educate everyone at the parade, I would. I suppose I’ve been honored because I care.”

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