On November 4-5, Americans from around the country will gather in Charles County Fairgrounds in La Plata, Maryland, for a Norse extravaganza that features exclusive guest appearances, historically accurate combat training, and a full-scale Viking encampment.
To find out more, The Viking Herald speaks to Kelly Montgomery, founder and executive director of VikingsCon, about the festival's origins, enthusiasm in the USA for the world of the Northmen, and the educational side of historical cosplay and entertainment.
Based on a TV story
Founded in 2017, VikingsCon is in the firm tradition of American conventions that take a given theme and then build a fun and costume-filled event around it. In this case, the inspiration was the hit TV series Vikings.
"I've always had an interest in Viking and medieval history in general," Kelly tells us.
"The first event I created was SpartaCon, which took inspiration from the Starz series Spartacus and was the only dedicated Spartacus convention in the USA. Once I saw the History Channel's Vikings, I knew I had to create an event inspired by the series."
Fortunately, VikingsCon immediately caught the public's imagination.
"The initial reception was amazing," Kelly says. "Everyone was very supportive."
"I'd already built a reputation for creative immersive events that allowed fans to feel like they were part of their favorite TV series, and many established fans of my events immediately supported VikingsCon, too."
"It also brought new fans eager to contribute to the historical and educational aspect of the event."
The festival also celebrates Dísablót, an autumn event honoring warrior goddesses like the dísir and the Valkyries. Photo: VikingsCon
Entertainment for all
Kelly and her team have worked hard to construct an event that explores not only the semi-mythical tales of Kattegat and Ragnar Lothbrok in Vikings but also the broader world of the Norse, mixing entertainment with authentic history.
For the duration of the weekend, an immersive Viking Village is set up, complete with scenes from everyday Viking life and overnight camping spaces.
"When you attend VikingsCon, you are stepping back in time to the Viking era," Kelly says. "You'll find historically accurate reenactors hosting Viking-era workshops and demonstrations."
"We also have archery, axe throwing, a fully-sanctioned strongman competition, a mead hall, vendors, fire performances, combat training, and forging demos."
Other attractions include a two-hour Viking wedding, a firelit Viking feast, and Dísablót, an autumn festival that honors the dísir: warrior goddesses and the Valkyries.
There are also numerous guests invited, from historical authors and Viking combat experts to blacksmiths and culinary archaeologists.
A previous edition of the event was even attended by Clive Standen, who famously played Rollo in the Vikings TV show.
Activities such as archery, axe throwing, and a strongman competition are integral parts of the festival. Photo: VikingsCon
Learning through living history
VikingsCon promises fun for all ages, with plenty of special activities and games for children.
One of them is Clan of the Raven, a non-profit historical group that runs a range of demos and displays, including weaving, blacksmithing, cooking, hair braiding, and arrow making.
Though most of the visitors are from the USA, VikingsCon is also developing a distinct international feel. "We get people from all over," Kelly tells us, "With attendees from as far afield as Germany, Norway, and Japan."
Although there are only a few direct links between North America and the Norse, there is still great interest in the Viking Age in the USA, perhaps influenced partly by the large influx of Scandinavian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries.
"I think Vikings are very well known in the USA," Kelly asserts. "I've learned so much about Viking history from reenactors and historians here in the USA."
While the fantastical tales from the screen have influenced the event since its inception, Kelly believes there's ample room for authentic portrayals of Norse culture and history.
"For the future, I plan to grow the event by adding more historical aspects to our programming. We don't just aim to entertain but to educate attendees on Viking history and culture."
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