Oslo Pride Takes Over the Town

By Jenna Herrick

A member of the Filipino-Norwegian LGBTI. group wore an elaborate headdress. Photo by Dalton Spangler
Member of the Filipino-Norwegian LGBTI. Photo by Dalton Spangler.

The streets of Oslo were bursting with the colors of the rainbow and filled with music as the 36th annual Oslo Pride parade marched along to celebrate diversity.

Tens of thousands of people marched in the parade on June 21, with groups ranging from the police and military,  a BDSM fetish club to, The Women’s March, and a group advocating sex workers’ rights.

Oslo Pride has a way of bringing people together. Jennifer Priest and Camila Endresen met each other on the Ringen Via Toyen metro on their way to the pride parade. All it took was the simple question, “Are you going to Pride?” and they immediately bonded.

Endresen has been attending the Oslo Pride parade since she was only a teen in 1995. Priest moved to Norway from San Francisco ten years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She said she has been an active participant in the pride parade for nine years.

The event started at 1 p.m. in Oslo’s Grønland neighborhood and ended five kilometers later at Pride Park in downtown Oslo, after roughly three hours of celebrating. Last year more than 100,000 people participated in the event. This year the parade route was packed with humanity from Grønland to the National Theater. People in the upbeat crowd were wearing colorful costumes, waving rainbow flags and chanting “Happy Pride!”

Floats glided down the parade route as organizations waved rainbow flags yelling “Happy Pride.” Photo by Shannon Kehoe
Floats glided down the parade route as organizations waved rainbow flags yelling “Happy Pride.” Photo by Shannon Kehoe

The Skeiv Ungdom float, sponsored by a youth LGBT group, was filled with colorfully-garbed people dancing and singing along to the upbeat pop standards blaring from the huge speakers mounted on the truck.

The reaction of the crowd, as the truck slowly moved down the street, resembled people doing the wave at a sporting event. As soon as the first strains of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” or Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman” could be heard, the spectators began to sway and sing along.

When The Village People’s iconic gay anthem, “YMCA,” started to play, the unexpected happened. No one in the crowd busted out the arm movements spelling out Y, M, C and A. They smiled. They sang, but they did not do the dance.

Martin, 23, Alexandra, 19 and Lene, 46, were watching from the doorway of Illums Bolighus, the upscale Scandinavian furniture where they work. Martin said he wished he could be out watching on the street and Alexandra chimed in and said they had been taking turns running to the sidewalk to get close. As the thudding beat of “YMCA” passed in front of the store, the two said they didn’t realize there are movements to the song, but Lene said, “Oh yes, there are!” When pressed she said she wouldn’t dance, though, because she is “too shy,” but added she would have danced “if anyone else had started.”

A sea of people

According to Visit Norway, Oslo’s first gay pride celebration – called “Gay Days” – was held in 1982; the name was changed to Oslo Pride in 2014. Oslo Pride aims “to make gay culture visible and contribute to increased acceptance and respect for the gay part of the capital’s diverse population,” according to Oslo Pride. The organization boasts that Oslo Pride is the largest pride celebration in Norway, with 80 volunteers who work year-round to prepare for the event. Another 300 individuals volunteer during the week-long festival.

As the Pride Parade goes by, the tell-tale roar of the Jurassic Park T-rex is heard, disrupting the usual chants and tunes. A truck bearing a familiar logo comes down the street. It’s Bearassic Park. Attached to the back of the truck is a float packed with men in costumes, most dressed as cavemen and one or two in T-rex costumes, all dancing to the song, “Walk the Dinosaur.”

Video: Getting Bearassic

These are the Norway Bears, a large gay meet-up service for all of Norway. Founded in 1999, the group is dedicated to supporting and providing social networking for mature gay men in Norway, and is easily recognized by its bear-oriented theme.

The Norway Bears float was a big hit with the crowds, with spectators cheering and applauding for the dance routine the float occupants performed. But this wasn’t the only contribution the Bears made to Pride Fest. The group’s booth in Pride Park features a stage where the men gave an encore performance of their “Walk the Dinosaur” dance. Their booth hosts bingo games, slam poetry and rock performances, as well.

Corporate boost

Oslo Pride’s corporate sponsors are very proud to show their support. TGI Fridays changed their name to TGI Pridays and decorated the outside of their restaurants with pride colors for the duration of Oslo Pride. Wella Professionals had a booth at Pride Park to provide hairstyling services. Comfort Inn installed a large bouquet of balloons outside the hotel to celebrate the occasion. Companies from IBM to Ikea sponsored units in the parade.

Patricia, originally from Scotland, walked down the street wearing bright butterfly wings emblazoned with the word “Olafiaklinikken.” Patricia works at Olafiaklinikken, the main sexual health clinic in Oslo, providing testing and treatment to Oslo’s citizens. It’s her third year in the Oslo Pride Parade and she said it’s important, “to have this diversity and to celebrate being different,” and acknowledging that there’s a place for everyone.

Entrance to the parade was free except for businesses and organizations, which were required to register in advance.

Photo gallery: Scenes from Oslo Pride Parade 2018

Members of the Norwegian Labor Party prepare their firetruck to do duty as a float in Oslo Pride parade. Photo by Stacie Chandler
Many people on floats wore little to no clothing, like this person on Trollkrem Imports parade. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Ruby Diamond leading the Norway Bears through the parade. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Politics played a part in the Oslo Pride parade as these marchers from the university, OsloMet, show. Photo by Dalton Spangler

Video: Dorthea | First time marcher

(This story was written by Jenna Herrick. Also contributing to this story were Shannon Kehoe, Ethan Reddish, Jessie Shiflett, Dalton Spangler, and Stacie Chandler.)

Oslo’s bright colors reflect Pride

By Jenna Herrick

Oslo PrideFest crowd, June 27, 2018. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Enthusiastic participants at Oslo Pride on June 27, 2018. Photo by Jenna Herrick

Cities all over the world spend the month of June celebrating the LGBTQ community and Oslo is showing its Pride this week.

According to the Visit Norway website, Oslo’s first gay pride celebration – called “Gay Days” – was held in 1982; the name was changed to Oslo Pride in 2014. The Oslo Pride website boasts that its event is the largest pride celebration in Norway and says its goal is  “to make gay culture visible and contribute to increased acceptance and respect for the gay part of the capital’s diverse population.”

The festivities, which run from June 21 to July 1, feature dozens of events, including concerts, lectures, debates, art shows, parties and the parade. Individual event venues are scattered throughout Oslo and are anchored by Pride House, the event headquarters at Youngstorget, and Pride Park, known the rest of the year as Studenterlunden Park.

Pride participant Karine Jager talked about the event’s importance for her. “Just within the few years that I’ve been coming to Pride, it’s gotten so much bigger. I think that shows that the word is getting out that this is a place where you can be yourself and everyone is accepted for who they are.”

The iconic Pride rainbow can be seen everywhere in Oslo from restaurants and hotels sporting pride flags, banners or balloons to retail shops selling rainbow-themed merchandise to a local microbewery’s specially-crafted glitter beer. Pedestrians and passers-by wear tee shirts with Pride slogans, brightly-colored hair, and rainbow everything.



Cups for Kroner

By Jenna Herrick

There are lots of sights to been seen at Piknik i Parken, otherwise known as PiPfest, in Oslo. Looking around, you’ll spot musical performances, an abundance of food trucks, and children carrying large stacks of empty cups. Wait. What? Yes, dozens of four-foot-tall children walking around with stacks of cups almost as tall as them.

a teen retrieves cups from a trash can at PiPfest.
Elma raced around all evening collecting cups from trash cans at PiPfest and said she earned “a lot of money.” Photo by Jenna herrick

It’s seems a little peculiar to spot young kids searching through trashcans or offering to take empty cups from adults listening to the music. However, they aren’t collecting cups just for fun – they’re in it for the profit. Each cup is worth one kroner, equivalent to $0.12 USD, when turned in for recycling.

Elma, a middle-schooler, is an avid cup collector. “I don’t even watch the performances,” she said. “I was the only one doing it last night and got a lot of money.”

A seven-year cup-collecting veteran, Emma – now a teenager – gathers the cups at PiPFest for her organization, “Nature and Youth”  “We sort the plastic and the cups and then pay the kids when they drop them off,” said Emma. Emma sits in a cup drop-off booth and pays cup collectors when they drop off their haul. At the end of the evening, Emma and other volunteers sort the large pile of plastic, take it to a recycling center and exchange it for cash that funds their group.

an older girl gives money to a young girl
Emma gives money to a young girl in exchange for her cups. Photo by Jenna Herrick

Collecting empty cups is not uncommon in Norway. According to Life in Norway‘s website, anyone can take any empty bottles, cups or cans to redemption machines found in grocery stores to exchange for cash. The website said that, in 2005, an impressive 93% of all recyclable bottles in Norway were returned.

Norway’s admirable recycling process was the topic of a HuffPost article. “The incentivized deposit system for recyclable plastic uses ‘reverse vending machines’ as collection points for used plastic containers, which are then taken to specialized recycling areas,” according to the article. “These machines have been in place since 1972.”

Not only is this a great way to earn some easy cash, but it impacts the environment in  a positive way!

Flåm Through the Eyes of a Tourist

By Jenna Herrick and Shannon Kehoe

The Toget Cafe in Flam.
The Toget Café has great food and both indoor and outdoor seating. Photo by Shannon Kehoe.

This small Norwegian town looks as if it came right off a postcard.

Flåm is a flat tourist destination in Norway surrounded by tall, steep mountains. According to Visit Flåm’s website, the town is located at the end of Sognefjord, the world’s deepest and second-longest fjord at 4,291 feet deep and 126 miles long.

A tourist’s dream, Flåm has an abundance of gift shops filled with small trolls (significant in Norwegian mythological history), Norwegian wool sweaters and rain gear for the unprepared traveler. One popular spot is the Sami Shop, a tipi filled with handcrafted goods in the Sami style, such as wooden bottle openers dream catchers, reindeer jerky and reindeer hides. The Sami are Norway’s indigenous people and their culture is reflected in their work.

A stuffed reindeer and a reindeer head are displayed in the Sami Shop.
The Sami Shop sells an abundance of souvenirs handcrafted by Sami people. Photo by Shannon Kehoe.

There are several restaurants and cafés to choose from in Flåm, including the delicious Toget Café which has something for every palate, with  outside seating when weather permits visitors to enjoy the view. The ham pizza and veggie pizza were both delicious and affordable options, according to two diners. After eating at the café, you may want to stroll over to Flám Bakery to choose from an abundance of baked goods or some gelato.

The Flåm Railway is said to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. Throughout your hour-long trip on the railway you’ll pass spectacular waterfalls, soaring mountains and beautiful countryside. Make sure you get a window seat on the right side of the train,as you won’t want to miss anything! Check out the Flåm Railway Museum while in town, which provides a history of the railway and documents the challenges of its construction.

The Flåm visitor’s center offers maps of several trails to hike and cycle in the area. If you plan to stay overnight, there are several hotels and camp sites to choose from. For more information, visit Flam’s tourism website.

Sky High, Sky Brown

By Jenna Herrick

With sun-bleached hair flying, nine-year-old Sky Brown soars through the air wearing a floral dress, straw hat and an enormous smile. The barely four-foot-tall skateboarder from Miyazaki, Japan is fearless.

Sky Brown demostrates her pro-level skateboard skills during an exhibition at the Miniøya children’s music festival. Sky, 9, is a sponsored skateboarder from Japan. The Miniøya stop was part of a European exhibition tour. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Sky Brown demostrates her pro-level skateboard skills during an exhibition at the Miniøya children’s music festival. Sky, 9, is a sponsored skateboarder from Japan. The Miniøya stop was part of a European exhibition tour. Photo by Jenna Herrick

“My favorite part of skating is going so fast and flying and feeling like I can do anything,” said Sky. “It is scary in the air sometimes, but I like to beat the scariness.”

Before her performances and competitions, you won’t find Sky battling nerves. “I don’t really practice, I just listen to music before I perform,” she said.

Sky and her 6-year-old brother Ocean are in the midst of a European exhibition tour. They spent more than a half hour on the small children’s festival ramp entertaining a spellbound audience of children and adults.

Fredrik Bratt, an employee of the Oslo Skateboard Union, was impressed with Sky and Ocean’s performance at Miniøya. “They were great. I didn’t expect so many people to recognize them,” he said. “It’s not common to have skaters and applauding, because people here don’t quite understand what skating is. But they managed to get the audience with them and it was perfect.”

According to Sky’s Youtube page, she is the youngest girl to ever skate in the Vans US Open Pro Series. Additionally, she’s a Roxy Girl which comes with a sponsorship from Roxy, a surf, snowboard and fitness apparel brand. Tech Deck, a fingerboarding brand, also recently posted an Instagram photo announcing their sponsorship of Sky.

Sky started skating when she was about two or three years old after watching her father skate and seeing boarders on Youtube. Although her father was reluctant to let his little girl skate at such a young age, Sky was determined.

Her immense success at the tender age of nine has made Sky an inspiration for young girls. She wants to show that you should always follow your dreams, no matter your size or gender. Being an influence to young girls all over the world is one of her favorite parts of being a skateboarder.

“I want to teach girls to do anything and just go for it and don’t care what others think, to just be brave,” she said.

Sky isn’t afraid to skate with the bigger boys at the skate park. She says skating with them gives her the push to beat them and to become a better skater.

“If boys say something or anyone says something like ‘you’re a girl, you can’t do it, you can’t skate,’ just don’t think about it, just show off, just go in there,” Sky said.

Sky isn’t just a master skateboarder, she is also an accomplished surfer – another passion she shares with her brother and best friend, six-year-old Ocean. When asked, she said she couldn’t choose a favorite between surfing and skateboarding.

Sky and Ocean travel the world to demonstrate their skills in countries such as  Norway, Sweden and Australia. Sky’s favorite spot to skate is Venice Beach, California. Sky’s family lives in Japan for half of the year, and spends the other half in San Clemente, CA.

One of Sky’s biggest dreams is to compete at the X-Games. A new dream of hers is to skate at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo representing her home country, Japan.

Nine-year-old professional skateboarder Sky Brown demonstrates a trick for an appreciative audience of kids at the Miniøya festival in Oslo, Norway. Photo by Jenna Herrick.

Miniøya: A Child’s Paradise

By Jenna Herrick

Miniøya festival at Tøyenparken offers everything an adult could ask for on the weekend: food, music and live entertainment. However, there’s one catch: it’s for kids only.

Sure, kids are accompanied by their parents, but if adults arrive without a child under the age of 16, they won’t be allowed in.

Skateboarders Sky and Ocean stand with a fan.
Skateboarders Sky and Ocean Brown posed with fans and signed autographs after their performance. Photo by Jenna Herrick

An annual Oslo event, Miniøya is billed as the biggest children’s festival in Norway and prides itself on maintaining the same high standard of entertainment quality as festivals for grown-ups. The event is entirely child-oriented, and according to their website, even has children as festival managers.

The wide range of musical and cultural experiences was mirrored in the food vendors and entertainment. Hungry kids could choose from a wide array of food from sushi to burgers to grilled cheese and take part in activities such as mini tractor riding, karaoke, theater and skateboarding.

The festival had an extensive lineup of musical guests and performers, including headliners such as hip hop artist Hkeem and pop performer Sondre Lerche.  My personal favorite was the skateboard demo by prodigies Sky and Ocean Brown from Japan.

Exhausted child sleeps on mom's shoulders
A long day of fun in the sun is exhausting for some, including this young girl who fell asleep on her mother’s back during the last performance of the day. Photo by Jenna Herrick

This year Miniøya’s theme was the ocean. Children were taught the importance of recycling to help save the ocean and given recycling tips. It was also a balloon-free festival to protect nature from lost balloons. Additionally, the festival bracelets each guest was required to wear were made from recycled plastic.

For more information about Miniøya, you can visit their website.

King Shway brings a little LA sound to Oslo

The 87-degree heat didn’t stop Oslo-based rappers King Shway and Young Cisto from showing off their energetic dance moves at Musikkfest on Saturday, June 2. The two rappers drew a crowd on Torggata, a stone block street in front of Cafe Sør.

Rapper King Shway performs outside Cafe Sor as a crowd watches. He is an American musician living in Norway, focused on growing and developing his musical career. Photo by Billy Ray Malone
Rapper King Shway performs outside Cafe Sor as a crowd watches. He is an American musician living in Norway, focused on growing and developing his musical career. Photo by Billy Ray Malone

When talking to King Shway and Young Cisto after the show, we not only discussed their music but also how being an artist in Norway differs from the United States.

King Shway grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Norway to attend university. He said the move was quite difficult for him, both mentally and financially. Luckily, within a year he said he got a job and started his Norwegian music career.

King Shway says the hip hop scene is very different in Norway.

“There are more pop clubs and rock clubs here,” King Shway said. “The new wave, the trapping, and the smoking weed, Norway doesn’t want that. They want to be low key in their circle.” They listen to edgy rap lyrics, but “here it’s a lot of pretending like they’re doing it, and in America they’re actually doing it. Because in Norway you don’t have AK-47s, lean, you don’t have Xanax, you don’t have anything, you can barely get weed. That’s the big difference here.”

Although Oslo is a struggle, King Shway said LA was more difficult for him. He compared it to wolves vs. ants. He said many people want to be successful rappers in LA, but don’t make it out of the hood. He said if you struggle here, you’ll make money regardless.

“Jail here is better than living in the hood in LA,” King Shway said, “and that’s honest facts.”

His future in Norway includes a King Shway and Young Cisto album coming out this weekend. Follow the release on King Shway’s Facebook page.

Rappers King Shway, left, and Young Cisto sing and dance outside of Cafe Sor in downtown Oslo. King Shway is from Los Angeles and his counterpart Young Cisto is from Italy. Photo by Jenna Herrick
Rappers King Shway, left, and Young Cisto sing and dance outside of Cafe Sor in downtown Oslo. King Shway is from Los Angeles and his counterpart Young Cisto is from Italy. Photo by Jenna Herrick

(This blog was reported by Jenna Herrick and Billy Ray Malone. It was produced by Jenna Herrick.)