The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba (IFM)is proud to unveil the Fjallkona Walkway as part of the Viking Park Connectivity Project.

The walkway honours past, present and future Fjallkona. Each year, the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba selects a prominent woman from the Icelandic community to represent Mother Iceland and personify New Iceland’s ongoing relationship with Iceland. The Festival has been honouring this tradition at every Islendingadagurinn since 1924.

Anna Stevens, the Fjallkona for 2020, opened the Fjallkona Walkway on October 24, 2020. She was escorted by Tim Arnason, a past president and lifetime member of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba and a member of the Viking Park Campaign Cabinet.

Past Fjallkonur spearheaded fundraising for this portion of the Viking Park Connectivity Project Campaign, raising $25,900 to create this venerated tribute. The Fjallkona’s story is now told on a Settlement Marker located near the east entrance to Viking Park, by the new Timber Boardwalk. The Icelandic Festival created the walkway along the boardwalk, donating 23 timber plaques that list the names of the past and present Fjallkonnur. The Festival has pledged to continue to inscribe the names of new Fjallkonnur on plaques along the walkway in the years to come.

“Monuments provide an insight to the roots of a community and its people; a time capsule of our culture. Preserving the history of a place gives a Community its distinct character. A culture is much richer when it has a tangible connection to its past,” said Margaret Kernested, on behalf of the Fjallkona Walkway fundraising committee.

The Fjallkona Walkway is a meaningful part of the Viking Park Connectivity Project, which connects Viking Park to the main harbour area in Gimli, the Heart of New Iceland. The tree-lined pathways, improved lighting and sidewalks were constructed with monies raised by the Icelandic Festival’s Viking Park Campaign Cabinet and create safer pedestrian pathways in a park-like setting. Special commemorative areas, such as the Fjallkona Walkway, the Breakwater Timber Boardwalk and the refurbished Cenotaph are a part of the Viking Park Connectivity Project and express the unique culture and heritage of Gimli.

The fundraising committee members were Tami Jakobson Schirlie, Wanda Josephson Anderson, Karen Borgford Botting, Margaret Thorlakson Kernested and Lorna Tergesen.

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba will host the grand opening of the Viking Park Connectivity Project in the spring of 2021. Work on the Viking Park Connectivity Project began in 2017 after the Icelandic Festival received a $600,000 Small Communities Grant. The R.M. of Gimli provided an additional $300,000 of funding. Previously the Festival had opened Viking Park in 2017 in celebration of its 125th anniversary in 2014. At that time, the Icelandic Festival had raised over $1 million in private donations and gifted the park to the R.M. of Gimli, the Festival’s host community.

Together with funding from the three levels of government, the Viking Park Campaign Cabinet has raised about $2 million through donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and the Government of Iceland since the projects began in 2014. Viking Park and the Viking Park Connectivity provide storied canvasses for donors to mark meaningful moments in their lives. Many western Icelanders have chosen to celebrate their Icelandic heritage and the ongoing connections between Iceland and Manitoba, while others have taken the opportunity to honour family or to acknowledge their special relationship with the community.

Even after the grand opening of the Viking Park Connectivity Project, the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba will continue to provide opportunities for donors to tell their stories through recognition opportunities on timber plaques, trees and benches as an ongoing fundraising initiative for the festival. Funds raised will be directed to the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba’s Endowment Fund. The Endowment helps offset costs to ensure the Festival can continue to promote and sustain interest in Icelandic culture and heritage, primarily through a low or no cost family-orientated annual festival. All donations are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.

Viking Park and the Viking Park Connectivity Project were made possible through the volunteer efforts of the 125th Legacy Project Campaign Cabinet, co-chaired by Grant Stefanson and Kathi Thorarinson Neal. Along with Kathi and Grant, members include Lorna Tergesen, Arnie Thorsteinson, Tim Arnason, Tim Samson and Ernest Stefanson.