Narration and photos (from 2007) by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
As the largest free food festival in Europe, according to Fish Day manager Júlíus Júlíusson, the Great Fish Day in Dalvík, northeast Iceland, has grown in popularity and size every year since it was first held in 2001.
This year an estimated 35,000 people visited Dalvík during the Great Fish Day on August 11 – 16 times the community’s population of 2,200 – which is a new record.
Several art exhibitions were open during the festival, both inside galleries and outside on the streets of Dalvík. One of the exhibitions entitled “Fancy Fish on Line” featured the works of 700 first graders from 30 elementary schools around the country.
Guests were offered a free cruise on Eyjafjördur fjord and bands and clowns entertained the crowd. Some visitors wore the Icelandic national costumes for the occasion.
A local fish producer, Thorsteinn Adalsteinsson, first had the idea of the festival in 2001. Other fish producers in Dalvík liked it and urged him to see it through. Adalsteinsson contacted his friend Úlfar Eysteinsson, a chef at restaurant Thrír Frakkar in Reykjavík, who specializes in seafood. Eysteinsson agreed to become the festival’s master chef.
Dalvíkurbyggd municipality became involved and with support from several companies, both inside and outside of Dalvík, and a vast number of volunteers, the Great Fish Day turned into reality. The festival’s philosophy is that every guest should be able to eat his or her fill of free fish.
People walked around the harbor area and queued beside the many food booths offering free seafood. Dishes included raw shrimp, which guests could peel themselves, raw minke whale and raw salmon, fish burgers, shrimp salad with blue cheese, grilled marinated river trout and cod, salt fish balls in a sweet-and-sour sauce, herring on dark rye bread, plokkfiskur, a salt fish casserole, Asian shrimp balls and dried fish with butter.
Dried fish was served by employees of the local fish export company Salka Seafood dressed in Nigerian costumes. Salka Seafood mainly exports fish products to Nigeria; dried fish, stockfish and fish heads, and the company’s Nigerian business partners gave them costumes to wear at the occasion. Last year, a few of the Nigerian fish importers came to Dalvík to attend the Great Fish Day festival in person.
The youngest generation was keen on catching their own fish and brought their fishing rods to the harbor. The kids caught a number of coalfish, which they planned to cook and eat at home.
There were plenty organized activities for children to choose from, like horse back riding or having their faces painted like Spiderman or any other superhero or fairytale character. They could also watch a puppet theater or a staging of the children’s play The Animals of Hakkebakke Forest by Norwegian playwright Thorbjoern Egner.
The Great Fish Day was originally only celebrated over one day, but the celebrations have now been stretched out to almost one week. Some campers arrived as early as Monday, August 6, to secure the best camping spots, though the program didn’t begin until Wednesday evening with a new event, the two-hour long Fish Day Family Walk.
The Great Fish Day ended with a firework show at midnight on Saturday.
Click here for more information about the Great Fish Day in Dalvík.