Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gerri Griswold's "Iceland Affair"

Even her friends call her "peculiar." Her Facebook pages (yes, she maintains several) are littered with selfies taken in the crapper at Logan Airport or the big bathtub in her back yard (censored by soap bubbles). She drivels on and on about her juicing diet and her real job (one of them) as a radio station traffic reporter. She has a pet pig. She's passionate about bats and porcupines, which she rehabilitates for the White Memorial Conservation Center.

Where am I going with this? To Iceland, of course, for Gerri Griswold is passionate, too, about the land of Fire and Ice, which is how our paths crossed. Gerri's is the spirit behind Iceland Affair--and that's what makes this quirky all-day, all-Iceland festival in Connecticut so much fun.You just never know who you might meet and what you might learn.

According to a press release for Iceland Affair, which Gerri has almost single-handedly put together near her home in Connecticut each year for the last five, Gerri Griswold fell "hopelessly in love with Iceland on her first trip in May 2002 and has since traveled there 34 times."

Reading that made me seriously jealous. I fell in love with Iceland in 1986 and I've only racked up 18 return trips. How does she do it?

One answer is, she doesn't sleep. I learned that the hard way, sharing a room with her for a June night in Iceland in 2013, where she was up until at least 3 a.m. editing photos to post on Facebook. She once was a professional chef, Gerri told me. "I'm used to having five burners going at once."

To fund (or fuel) her Iceland habit, Gerri established a travel agency, which I wrote about in a previous blog post. [Read it here:] I toured with her group for about 24 hours, during which time I hiked along the rim of a volcanic crater at midnight, swam in a natural hotspring, visited sulfur pots and lava formations, learned about lichens, found the ram with the biggest horns in Iceland, and listened to the stirring voices of a men's choir in the elegant surroundings of a bird museum while munching on Icelandic cheese. I think that was more than five burners going at once.

And it was fun. Gerri's company pairs an elegant logo of a raven with a name that, while it does mean "raven," is pronounced by every American as "crummy": Krummi Travel. The company logo is No crybabies, cranks, or pantywaists allowed. What's a pantywaist? I spent that whole day touring with them and didn't have the nerve to ask.

Still don't know--and don't tell me, because I'm taking part in another of Gerri's productions this weekend: the Fifth Annual Iceland Affair in Winchester Center, CT.

Inside the Winchester Center Grange on Saturday, October 18, from 10 to 5, will be a full slate of lectures and presentations. At noon, I'll be speaking on my book A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse. There will be talks on Iceland's geology and its currently active volcano, Bar├░arbunga. The breeder of Icelandic goats whose farm we all saved from the dragons (bankers) with the Indiegogo campaign will be there, as will experts on Icelandic gyrfalcons and Icelandic pop music. [Read more about the goats here:]

Downstairs at the Grange will be free food-tastings all day: Icelandic hot dogs, dried fish, chocolate, skyr, and more. Vendors will be selling Icelandic sweaters and vinaterta and books (mine, of course).

Outside on the Winchester Center Green will be a veritable Icelandic petting zoo: Icelandic horses, Icelandic sheep, Icelandic sheepdogs, Icelandic chickens--yes, there really are Icelandic chickens.

"Anything worth doing is worth overdoing," Gerri stresses.

Finally, at 8 pm, there's a concert (which is not free; Gerri's got to pay for this event somehow). The Fire and Ice Music Festival at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT will feature Icelandic musicians Lay Low, Svavar Knutur, Myrra Ros, Agnes Erna, Snorri Helgason, Bjorn Thorodssen, and Kristjana Stefansdottir, playing everything from pop to folk to jazz. [You can read bios of the artists (and buy tickets, if there are any left) here:]

"Surprises are in store for every guest attending--and for the artists," Gerri concludes.

I'm not surprised. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't know Gerri, but I think you just made me fall in love with her!