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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 11, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 19
Syttende Mai? Syttende Gay!
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Syttende Mai? Syttende Gay!

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

On Thursday, May 17, Seattles Ballard neighborhood will celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day, Syttende Mai (17th of May). For the past six years, LGBT Seattleites of Scandinavian descent  or ScandiGayvians, if you will  have gathered for Syttende Gay to view the annual Syttende Mai parade, celebrate their heritage, and share it with other members of the LGBT community.

The event has gotten bigger, said Erik Witzøe, its creator. Last years Syttende Gay was double the size of the 2010 event.

I think its great. We just talked about how our numbers just grew; it [last years Syttende Gay] was one of the best events weve ever had, Witzøe told SGN. Were going off the momentum of last year.

This year, Witzøe has come up with a theme to get the growing number of participants even more excited.

The theme is Russefeiring, a yearly Norwegian graduation tradition similar to Mardi Gras. Participants typically wear colored overalls and celebrate nonstop from graduation day to the 17th - about two weeks.

Although diverse, Ballard has a rich history of Scandinavian immigration and pride, and the regions cultural influences can still be found in the western Seattle neighborhood.

Ballard is home to the Nordic Heritage Museum, which celebrates both the community of Ballard and local Scandinavian history. The Syttende Mai celebration and parade in Seattle is one of the largest outside of Norway. Syttende Gay offers LGBT members of the Scandinavian community a chance to gather together at the BalMar Lounge in Ballard to view the parade.

BalMar is kind of the closest thing to a Gay venue for Ballard, said Witzøe.

In addition to providing an excellent view of the procession, BalMars chef prepares Nordic-inspired appetizers and the bar serves Akvavit or Aquavit, Scandinavias signature spirit, which gets its unique taste from caraway or dill.

Witzøe said he created the event and chose Syttende Mai as the date for celebration because there was no real post-parade party for the Gay crowd, and secondly, its a day that recognizes freedom. As it happens, May 17 is also the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

Proceeds from Syttende Gay will be donated to the Approve Referendum 74 campaign to defend marriage equality here in Washington. A pre-party of sorts, featuring the music of ABBA, will take place at Changes in Wallingford on Saturday, May 12. This event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Approve 74 campaign.

Syttende Gay begins at 5 p.m. at the BalMar Lounge in Ballard. The Syttende Mai parade begins at 6 p.m.

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