Celebrating Leif Erikson
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Sunday mornings are usually welcomed by getting up late, coffee breaks and brunches. But each October, the town of Durham unveils a quirky secret on a Sunday morning: the Leif Erikson Hurrah.
Sunday, Oct. 7 began with a 6:30 a.m. parade from the Laundromat to Young’s Restaurant downtown. This quirky event is indeed a celebration of Sunday’s holiday: Leif Erikson day.
This year marked the parade’s 36th year in celebration, although none of the original founders were in attendance. Founders Neil Young and Noble Peterson have both passed away, while the third founder, Melin Neilson, now resides in Maine.
As the story goes, the three men (all Scandinavian) would often do their laundry in the Durham Laundromat. Afterward, they would walk to Young’s for breakfast. It was during this time that they decided that Leif Erikson needed a celebration for himself. During the first years of celebration, the trio were the only participants in the parade.
“It was probably Noble Peterson’s idea. He was always a bit of a joker,” said current event organizer and Durham resident Peter Anderson.
Hailed by multiple news outlets, the parade attracted tourists and Scandinavians from all over. “I believe we’ve had up to 11 countries represented,” said Ken Young, the owner of Young’s Restaurant. “There are people who have flown here from Scotland.”
Attendees came dressed in Scandinavian attire, sans the pop-culture-inspired horns.
“That’s the one thing we disallow. … One woman showed up with horns and she knew she’d have to take it off, I guess,” Anderson said.
The group marched the approximate 20 feet while reciting the chant, “For noble deeds and daring done, we all salute Leif Erikson. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”
Upon completion of the walk, celebrators are greeted with sheet cake designed by Young’s restaurant. “It’s a celebration. So, at [a] celebration you have a cake,” Young said.
Anderson took over the parade after Mrs. Noble Peterson was unable to continue the handle of the inner workings; her husband, one of the original founders, passed away a few years prior.
Mrs. Noble Peterson is perhaps the strongest anchor that the parade has to Durham. “She deserves every accolade that she gets,” Young said. “This woman has been a community icon.”
According to him, when she took over the parade, attendance flew from 70 or 80 to more than 100 people.
“She exploded the attendency,” Anderson said.
Traditionally, Leif Erikson is celebrated on Oct. 12, but in the United States, it has become accustomed to the second Monday in October.
This year, Columbus Day was to fall before Leif Erikson day, but Anderson wouldn’t allow it.
“We got Gov. Lynch to sign a special proclamation to make this year [Sunday, Oct. 7] Leif Erikson Day,” Anderson said. “But nationally [it is] Tuesday.”
Each year, as well, the governor (and sometimes the president) will sign a proclamation in accordance to Leif Erikson day. The proclamation is read each year, and skits are performed, participants cheer and everyone eats cake.
Each year, in Aptos, Calif., a Fourth of July parade is held that lasts 0.6 miles and is billed as the “World’s Shortest Parade.” It is even recorded in the Guinness’ World Book of Records.
When walked, the Leif Erikson parade is 16 steps and is estimated to be approximately 20 feet. This makes the Leif Erikson Hurrah, unofficially, the shortest parade in the world.