The very first group of Vikings in Junction City was organized in 1963. During a monthly business meeting, Board Members realized that there was no workforce that could be called upon for special projects or for general set-up and takedown of the Festival. It was suggested then that a group of men would be available for regular meetings and would be on call for work projects. Several men volunteered and they decided to call themselves, Vikings.
This group of men decided that they couldn’t just call themselves Vikings, but would dress up as them during the four days of the Festival itself. They began working on costumes consisting of leg wrappings, tunics, and horned helmets. They initiated themselves one morning by raiding Cliff’s Barbershop.
On one occasion, they also raided the State Legislature. The Vikings had drafted a charter for fun and, in full costume, went to Salem and “made” the head of the Oregon Senate sign it. Following this raid, the group in costume went to the KVAL news station. John Doyle was in the midst of reading the evening news when he glanced up and saw them all standing there. He was so unnerved that he stopped reading and simply laid his head down on the desk.
After this incident, it became apparent that these Vikings could be used as publicity because they were a very unique group. So they decided they needed a fitting vessel to better impress the general populace. They secured an old car chassis and began work building their very own ship. She was a 24-foot square-rigged raider they named Absalon after the Christian bishop who founded Copenhagen, Denmark in the 11th century.
The Absalon, with its costumed Vikings, appeared in several parades: including the Rose Parade in Portland, the Bend Winter Pageant, and the Eugene Roundup. She and her crew were enthusiastically received whenever they went anywhere and were a huge success in advertising the Festival. For years the Absalon was part of the opening ceremonies, and was then on display during the Festival. The Vikings themselves roamed the streets, to the delight of the crowds, and led the evening processional with flaming torches, as they still do to this day.
Sadly, the Absalon ended up outside for several years and slowly deteriorated. In may of 1988, Ron Ripke buried what remained of Absalon in his backyard, a fitting end to the proud vessel as when true Vikings of ancient history died, they were laid to rest in their ships along with many offerings, and then buried under mounds of stone and earth.
Luckily for us, this was not the end of the Junction City Vikings. Even a short meander through Old World Forbindelsestad can bring you face to face with one of these impressive warriors. They’ll be more than happy to share information or take a picture with you, but watch out, some of them are pranksters!