August 2, 2018 6:00 am

Islendingadagurinn in Gimli boasts viking-led contests, Iceland’s Prime Minister and men’s paralympic soccer friendly

For many Manitobans, the August long weekend means it's time for the annual Icelandic Festival in Gimli. This year, the festival has a special guest, the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir.

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Islendingadagurinn is a tradition almost as old as Manitoba itself, and this year includes a visit from Iceland’s prime minister and the country’s men’s paralympic soccer team.

Tens of thousands of people flock to Gimli to the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba every August long weekend, and this year marks 129 years, said President Grant Stefanson.

“There is literally something for everyone,” Stefanson said.

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READ MORE: Vikings and athletes: Big crowds expected in Gimli as Summer Games, Icelandic Festival overlap

In addition to a parade, fireworks, and all sorts of contests, Stephanson said the lineup includes food, music, as well as sports. Beach volleyball is a favourite activity, but this year, there’s a special event as the Iceland men’s paralympic soccer team is set to face off against a team from Gimli in a friendly exhibition match.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Icelandic festival without the Viking Village, where guests can glimpse into the lives of the vikings from 9th and 10th century western Europe.

Highlighting the long weekend is also a visit from the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir.  Every year, a guest from Iceland is invited to attend and give a toast to Canada on the main stage at Gimli Park, said Stefanson.

This year’s theme is ‘Gather as Family’, to encourage people to enjoy time with their loved ones, he added.

Just six months into his position as Icelandic Festival of Manitoba President, Stefanson is no stranger to the history of the festival. Both his father and grandfather were past presidents.

WATCH: Icelandic village pops up for festival in Gimli, Manitoba

The festival was first held in Winnipeg from 1890 to 1931, but as an increasing number of Icelandic immigrants migrated to Gimli, the event eventually followed suit in 1932.

One of the long-standing traditions of the Icelandic Festival is the appointment of the Fjallkona, or Maid of the Mountain. Every year, a woman is selected to be the Fjallkona to represent and celebrate the important contributions women make, said Stefanson. This year’s Fjallkona is Wanda Anderson.

The four-day event runs from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6. Visit the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba website for more information, here.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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