Icelandic elf, troll gardens to sprout up in shadow of iconic Gimli Viking

The trolls and elves of Icelandic lore may have a new home at the feet of Gimli's 4.6-metre-tall viking statue by next summer.

Icelandic Festival of Manitoba hopes new park ready to open August 2017

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba has raised about $500,000 to build Viking Park but still needs to raise another $300,000 to complete the project. (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba)

The trolls and elves of Icelandic lore may have a new home at the feet of Gimli's 4.6-metre-tall Viking statue by next summer.

"The big old guy is still going to be there and he remains the icon of the community, there's no doubt about that," said Tim Arnason, a long-time Icelandic Festival of Manitoba committee member. "Now there's going to be a little more to do around there."

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba is hoping to open a park in the shadow of the statue ahead of the 128th annual celebration in August 2017.

"The board of the Icelandic Festival wanted to give back to its host community to thank them for all of those years of allowing us to have our festival in Gimli," said Chris Brown, executive director of the festival.

"It was decided that the best we could do that was to build a park around the Viking statue to help celebrate the culture, history and personal history of those who settled in Gimli and came from Iceland."

The hope is to have the park open to the public Aug. 1 in advance of the 2017 Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba)

The park will consist of three family-friendly gardens — the Troll Storm Garden, Elf Garden and Breakwater Garden — that will be accessible to people with disabilities, Brown said.

The Troll Storm Garden will be built in an area that has been used to collect storm water run-off in the past. Landscape designers plan to plant water-loving Prairie vegetation and flowers at the site and stack boulders with troll-like shapes and faces cut in the stone. As Icelandic legend goes, trolls are nocturnal creatures that turn to stone if they get caught in the sun.

The Elf Garden is another hat-tip to Icelandic mythology. Tiny elf houses will be spread throughout in the same way some Icelanders set up the little homes in their gardens.

The Elf Garden will feature tiny homes where the invisible creatures of Icelandic folklore are said to live. (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba)

A series of pathway stones with runic alphabet letters in them will be laid in the gardens as well. Stones can be purchased for between $125 and $1,250, and buyers can have personalized messages carved into them, Brown said.

Some of the stones with runic lettering will be scattered around and can be assembled like a puzzle.

Arnason hopes the new park boosts the Gimli tourism industry.

"It think it's going to be a great facelift," said Arnason, who is also a member of the Viking Park Legacy Campaign.

A big wall with cultural and historic facts about the shared history of Gimli and Iceland will also be in the park, Arnason said.

"It just adds to the natural beauty that already surrounds the statue and borders the lake," Arnason said.

Winnipeg firm HTFC Planning & Design is behind the landscape design. The rural municipality of Gimli and the Betel Home Foundation are also involved with the project.

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba hopes to start construction on its new Viking Park as soon as the snow melts in the spring of 2017. (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba)

The festival has already raised about $500,000 through charitable donations but still needs another $300,000. There isn't any money in the project from the province yet, but Brown said the festival is hoping that will change.

The Gimli Chamber of Commerce erected the Viking statue on a stone plinth in 1967.

The Icelandic Festival has been hosted in Gimli since 1932. Prior to that it was hosted in Winnipeg.

The festival hopes to start construction as soon as the snow melts in the spring.

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology. Before joining CBC Manitoba, he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring birds in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.