Icelandic Picnic to be restarted this July
By Jan Hrutfiord
Blaine and Point Roberts were early settlement places for the Icelandic people, who came here in the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Growing up in Blaine, you were surrounded by Icelanders. You knew who they were by their names, by their families, and you saw them at the annual Icelandic Picnic, which was first held at Lincoln Park in the early 1900s and then later held at Peace Arch Park. There were hundreds of them – your grandparents and sometimes parents spoke Icelandic and if you didn’t speak it, you at least recognized the language when you heard it.
The first Icelanders came here to find a place where there was work and enough food to feed their families. There was a terrible famine in Iceland in the last part of the 1800s and many had to leave. This area was as much like home as they could find, there were farms and there was fishing, both very important lifestyles in Iceland.
Where a settlement of Icelanders began, others followed. Look at the names of your neighbors – and on the gravestones in the cemetery – you’ll find Gudmundson, Johnson, Isaakson, Thorstenson – all names which started with the father’s first name, and then son or daughter (dottir) added, the way the surnames in Iceland name the name of the area in Iceland where they originally came from.
Look at a map of Iceland, you will find these place names repeated in local family names – Hrutfiord, Skagafjord, Breidford, Westman.
As the years have gone on, Blaine’s Icelandic community has been diluted by an influx of others of different nationalities, but they’re still there: Gudjonson, Olasson, Asmundson, Palmason.
The Blaine Icelanders still remember their roots and as the Icelandic Heritage Society, have gotten together to restart the Icelandic Picnic, which will be held at Peace Arch Park, American Kitchen, on Saturday, July 30, 1 – 5 p.m.
They will be joined by the Icelandic Club of Greater Vancouver and are looking for all those of Icelandic descent or close affiliates of Icelanders, who wish to join them. It will be a family picnic, so bring your own food for your family. There will be desserts, juice and coffee provided and games for the kids from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
See if you can find family and/or friends that you haven’t seen for a while: Freeman, Magnusson, Thorsteinson, Olgiersson, Soffaniasson – keep looking, we hope that they (you!) will be there. Questions? Call Jerry at 332-8519.