The Vikings are already here

HEAVE HO: Dannevirke High School prefects lift the viking ship they built.
HEAVE HO: Dannevirke High School prefects lift the viking ship they built.

Dannevirke High School's back field was filled with the sound of laughter and 16 students lugging a 2-metre-long miniature Viking ship up a hill yesterday.

The prefects got in some well-timed, synchronised lifting practice ahead of this weekend's biennial Scandinavian Festival street parade.

The ship was completed just in time for the Tararua town's hosting of the 16th instalment of the festival.

Technology teacher Mike Harold, who led the Viking ship project, said it had been a collaborative effort between schools.

About 50 Year 8 and 9 students from nearby Huia Range Primary School were responsible for building, crafting and carving the plywood ship and more than 100 group hours were spent working on it. But the muscles to move the boat on the day would be provided by the high school's senior students, Harold said.

"It's good to see it out there and finished, because I was a bit worried we wouldn't get it done.

"There are not many plans on the internet on how to build a Viking boat that aren't written in Norwegian, so we had to decipher things, scale it up and scale it down to make sure we had it perfect for this weekend."

The town was buzzing with preparations for the festival and a lot of the school's students were involved in performances, parades and other events over the weekend, Harold said.

"We all need a point of difference that makes a town stand out and for Dannevirke that is our Scandinavian history, so it's good it's being celebrated."

Head girl Stevee Taylor, who is narrating part of the opening ceremony, said she was excited about the weekend ahead.

"I think it's a great showcase for our town's Scandinavian heritage and hopefully we'll get a lot of people in Dannevirke for it.

"I'm looking forward to the parade the most, it should be cool," she said.

The celebrations start on Friday with a concert at the high school and opening ceremony at the Dannevirke Town Hall.

Saturday will feature the raising of the flags, street parade, a cultural market day, entertainment, banquets and a night-time dance.

Sunday has a thanksgiving service, a closing service and the lowering of the flags.


Dannevirke was first settled in 1872 by eight Norwegian and 13 Danish families who came to New Zealand as part of the Vogel Scheme – which was the most ambitious public works and assisted-immigration programme in New Zealand's history.

These pioneer settlers were allocated lots and set to work clearing bushland, building roads and establishing the railway.

This led to timber mills and the arrival of English-speaking immigrants and as the land was cleared, farmland was developed and Dannevirke grew to become an important centre for rural communities.

The town's Scandinavian roots still stir up nostalgia among residents and the Danish flag flies proudly beside the New Zealand flag on the town hall.

A memorial plaque identifying the pioneer settlers is situated in Copenhagen Square, and many of Dannevirke's street names come from European cities.

Manawatu Standard