By Karam Singh Sethi
Feb. 14, 2014
Get ready to tell your parents you love them and rapid fire Instagram your soon to be deceased dog. Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse, comes to fruition this Saturday. As one may expect, with the end of time comes a bounty of dollar signs. Organizers of the Jorvik Viking Festival predict, “record audiences” due to the coincidental overlap of Ragnarok and the last night of the event. The Festival is capitalizing on an apocalyptic frenzy while reviving a small town economy.
Jorvik consistently entertains a sold out crowd of 40,000 visitors, but its 30th year is special. In an email communiqué Jay Commins, PR director for Jorvik, says, “the story of Ragnarok has truly catapulted this year’s event to be globally recognized.” He believes the unofficial free-events around the grounds, which have no capacity limit, will reach unprecedented levels, filling the small town of York to the brim with visitors.
The U.K. tourist destination is a popular case study in renovating small town economies. The Victorian city maintained financial buoyance primarily through two archaic industries: Railway and Chocolate. In 2005, these industries were in decline so York decided to shift gears by taking advantage of its accessibility and physical charm.
The new city council is building 1,100 new houses annually, transcending just a “commuter town.” Two modern universities, York and York St. Johns, also ensure a sustainable flow of revenue generated by students. But what truly makes this small economy shine, is the annual 7 million tourists.
Since 2011, York has experienced 2 percent annual rise in hotel occupancy. Expectedly, the busiest months are January and February. The city is clearly benefitting from the Jorvik Viking Center’s transparent Armageddon hoax, frustrating cynics.
In an All Things Considered interview last week Geasley Sigerson, the head of the Viking and Medieval Norse Studies program at the University of Iceland accused the Center of promoting an arbitrary date. “There is nothing in our sources to indicate any of this is upon us now. This seems to be a marketing policy by the Viking Center in York.”
The Center undoubtedly bolsters the February 22 date to assure successful outreach and revenue, but attendees don’t seem to mind the ruse. York continues to be swarmed by axe wielding reenactors with deep pockets this week, helping sustain the city’s above average employment rate. In this case at least, transparent absurdity outshines opaque honesty.