This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of Tove Sandblost watching glaciers from the M/S Origo by Anna Lena Ekeblad / True North Arctic Guideservice.
Longyearbyen got some reason to celebrate with extra COVID-19 crisis funds Tuesday will have more cause to celebrate (albeit COVID-19 style) with an official program for May 17 that resembles the usual traditional events – yet will be different to some extent at nearly all of them.
Longyearbyen is getting about 20 million kroner and Ny-Ålesund about 18 million kroner in additional funds in this year’s national budget, the Norwegian government announced Tuesday. While the funds will help both communities with some expenses and aid related to coronavirus impacts, it is far short of the 180 million kroner Longyearbyen’s city government is requesting. A response to the larger request is expected by the end of the month.
The city also on Tuesday released its May 17 program, which will take place while Norway is still under restrictions that limit group events to 20 people and public events to 50 people. As a result, major events such as the “train” procession through the streets at midday will follow a much different route and be broken into clusters – and while banners for the school and associations will be present, members will not be able to participate. Instead of beginning at Svalbard Church and looping through town before ending at the Skjæringa memorial, where wreaths by local Norwegian and Russian dignitaries are usually lain, the procession will go from the miner’s memorial in the town center to the sports field at Longyearbyen School where various family activities will take place rather than indoors at Svalbardhallen as usual.
Furthermore, the evening gala of performances, speeches and citizen awards at Kulturhuset will be streamed virtually without an in-person audience.
“There will be a quite different May 17 celebration in Longyearbyen this year,” the schedule posted by the city at its website states. “But the May 17 Committee will conduct a celebration that will be as traditional as possible within the framework we have.”
The full schedule includes:
• 7 a.m.: Firing of the salute.
• 8 a.m.: Procession beginning with flag hoisting and flower laying at July 22 memorial at Svalbard Church. Followed by wreath layings at Skjæringa and Huset, and the Longyearbyen Big Band “Corps” playing as the procession proceeds in a loop back through town back to the church.
• 11 a.m.: Brief “We Are A Nation United” musical salute at Svalbard Church. Maximum of 50 people.
• Noon: Flower laying at the miner’s monument in the center of town by Gov. Kjerstin Askholt. Sectioning off of participants in the traditional “train” procession, which will proceed to the sports field outside Longyearbyen School.
• 1 p.m.: Singing of national anthem on sports field w/all of Norway, followed by children’s games, food and other activities taking place in separate groups.
• 7 p.m.: Traditional May 17 gala at Kulturhuset, including presentation of Tyfus statuette and youth scholarship. Livestream will be available at localstyre.no, svalbardposten.no and Longyearbyen Lokalstyre’s facebook page.
In other news/announcements for Tuesday:
• Bruktikken is open from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday.
• Weapons permit applications are again available at Sportscenteret.
• Svalbard Brewery is hosting its Friday evening pub gathering from 4-10 p.m., with limited groups accepted in two-hour slots that must be reserved in advance.
• Kroa will be open from 11:30 a.m. May 17 to 2 a.m. May 18, with a fixed two-course menu available from 2 p.m. May 17 in addition to a lunch menu and pizza during the evening. Takeaway is available.
• A weekend May 17 holiday cruise aboard the M/S Origo (pictured above) to Kongsfjorden and Krossfjorden, with a stop in Ny-Ålesund, is scheduled to depart at 5 p.m. Friday and return at 7 a.m. Monday. Reservations and details available via Facebook Messenger or by calling 97785910.