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New festival asks, “What’s your story?”

Photo: Scott Shigeoka
Author: Julie Summers, Reykjavík, Iceland

How does an idea born in a Jordanian cave turn into a music and sustainability festival in Iceland, thousands of miles away? Hawaii native Scott Shigeoka was traveling in Jordan in 2014 when a chance encounter with two Bedouin men led to an evening of sharing stories. The conversation revolved around questions of place: who are we? where are we? and where do we belong? With these questions percolating in his mind long after he left, Shigeoka discovered the Icelandic sagas and began contemplating how he could create a community event centered around the question, “What’s our story?” The idea behind Saga Fest was born.
Saga Fest is a two-day community-driven music and arts festival with a strong emphasis on sustainability. The inaugural festival will be held May 23 to 24, 2015 at Stokkseyrarsel, a farm located near Selfoss, about 45 minutes outside Reykjavík.
Shigeoka has a journalism degree from Washington State University, a strong entrepreneurial streak, and a seemingly endless well of energy. Within a matter of months after that life-changing night in Jordan, he had secured funding through a Fulbright-mtvU grant, quit his job, and moved to Reykjavík.

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Thank God for the fish

Photo: Stefan Jonasson
Author: Glenn Sigurdson, West Vancouver, BC

As I was writing Vikings on a Prairie Ocean, several pieces that I had written as fictionalized accounts, based on historical facts, did not find their way into the final manuscript. Yet these stories are worth telling, for they show the conditions faced by the early settlers.
… 1881… the assault continues. Now the haylands are under water. It is five years since he had arrived in this land, to this island, to a new beginning. Or is this the beginning of the end? Alone together, Sigurdur and his cow stubbornly struggle on ...
His feet are wet and cold from the first steps into the soggy field. A curtain of grey clouds hangs over the lake, intercepted on the horizon by a narrow band of dawn widening out to the south. The wind is stiffening and shifting, turning splashes of white on the lake into a tumbling snowy blanket. They’re in for another blow from the northwest – and more rain. Will this weather never turn?
The baying of the cow grows louder as he walks. Sigurdur gets precious few hours warm in bed, but he can’t ignore a cow in trouble. Without that cow, who knows how close to the edge they’d be? He and Helgi had struggled to get the cow with them to the island when they arrived. Helgi should be fighting through this damn swamp. Where in hell is he?

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Icelandic men love to sing

Photo courtesy of Doreen Kerby
Author: Doreen Kerby, Saskatoon, SK

Recently a group of travel writers travelled to Iceland and some of us were invited to farms close to Reykjavík. The one I enjoyed most was a dairy farm that had been in the family for six generations. As luck would have it, the farmers of Bakki at Kjalarnes had six girls. They are all away from home now, so there is no one to carry on the family farm. Birgir’s wife, Ásthildur is hopeful that one of their grandsons will take over when they are ready to retire.
Their farm is big and busy, with 340 hectares, 350 cows, six horses – and 40 of the cows need to be milked. When we were there, two of the cows were in the barn because they were ready to have their calves. Watching this couple move around the farm, it was evident that they were busy people used to hard work.
Ásthildur whispered to me that Birgir had a beautiful voice and had been singing in a choir since he was eight. He belongs to a 65-member choir and if I wanted to see him on YouTube to check out Karlakór Kjalnesinga. When I got home I did just that and was amazed to see the members dressed in tuxedos and the singing was excellent. Now I was on a mission, so I watched all five videos. But there were other Icelandic choirs as well and it was apparent that Icelandic men just love to sing.

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