ASHVILLE - The annual Ashville Viking Festival will offer extended hours, plans for future events and a tribute to its late founder this weekend in Ashville Community Park.
The festival, presented by Ashville's own Lost Vikings Hoard, will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, offering two extra hours on Saturday this year, according to Dave Rainey, member of the Ashville Community Club.
The weekend kicks off Friday with an all-you-can-eat pork chop dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. at the shelter house. The cost is $9 for adults and $5 for kids 10 and under.
"That's the welcome feast," Rainey said. "That's what brings the locals in. It's a good way to kick off the festival, and it's a good fundraiser for the Ashville Community Club. We usually have a couple hundred people come through, so it allows us to get a good start on the weekend. We sell food during the festival, too."
Admission to the festival is free, but organizers ask guests to bring non-perishable food items as a donation for the Ashville Food Pantry. The group also welcomes monetary donations to help cover costs of the event.
"We can run the food pantry well over a month every year just with donations that come in through the Viking Fest," Rainey said. "It's one of those really cool things people don't really know about. The festival really helps the community."
The idea to support the food pantry was the brainchild of Ed Vallette, the festival's founder, who unexpectedly passed away May 12, 2014, shortly after the end of the festival last year.
Vallette will be honored with a special Viking funeral service after the event closes Saturday at 7 p.m. Rainey said the public is welcome to attend.
"The plan is for a funeral pyre type of thing on Saturday night," Rainey said. "They'll have a small ship and burn it, much in the tradition of real Vikings who would burn their dead on a real ship. It should be pretty cool."
This year's festival, now in its 12th season, will be the first without Vallette, and Rainey said organizers are doing whatever they can to pay tribute to him and carry on the tradition he started.
Organizers include Nancy Vallette, Ed's wife, and other members of the Lost Vikings Hoard, he said.
The festival is set to feature all of its traditional offerings, including food, vendors, entertainment, historical reenactments and jousting, Rainey said. The only thing that will be missing is the traditional display of a replica Viking ship, but he said plans are in the works to replace that feature with something even better next year.
"That ship is just not seaworthy anymore after all these years, and they were still paying to bring it in," Rainey said. "This year, we're in the beginning stages of building our own boat that will be a boat, a stage and a parade float all at the same time."
Organizers at the festival will be presenting the concept for the new boat, which will be built in two sections, about 40 feet long and look exactly like a Viking ship. The plan is to have the ship built and ready for next year's festival.
"We'll be able to not only use it for the festival, but we can use it as a float at the Pumpkin Show and 4th of July and Homecoming and things to promote the festival," Rainey said. "And it will be ours and over the course of four or five years will pay for itself."
Rainey said the new ship will be christened "Wolftamer" in honor of Vallette.
"It will have a nice sail and great seals and everything," Rainey said. "It will be really cool. And with Pumpkin Show alone, to be able to pull it through that parade, that exposure alone will be worth it."
The festival traditionally welcomes 4,000 to 6,000 people into the village park during its two-day run each year.
The Ashville Viking Festival can be found on Facebook and through its web site at www.ashvillevikingfest.com.