One of the biggest undertakings of the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival is making hundreds of pounds of traditional food for the 8,000-plus attendees.
Visitors to the 38-year-old festival have admitted they return every June just to buy a cup of split pea soup or a bowl of rice pudding.
Some of the most popular dishes are made by the Astoria Scandinavian lodges, which start making food for the festival months in advance.
In April, the Swedish Vasa Lodge gathered in the Astoria Middle School kitchen to cook 55 gallons of pea soup. The recipe required no less than 75 pounds of bone-in ham, 100 pounds of yellow split peas, 25 pounds of carrots and 12 bunches of celery. Members spent hours chopping the vegetables, cutting the meat off the bones and stirring the cauldrons. When the soup was perfectly cooked, it was transferred into smaller containers and frozen at the Seafood Laboratory. Closer to the festival, the containers will be hauled to the fairgrounds to thaw.
Astoria Vasa Lodge Secretary Violet Hagnas said making pea soup wasn't always such a large operation.
At the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, attendees sample a variety of traditional Scandinavian foods. File photo by Lori Assa."Before that, the women used to make a pot of pea soup at home, and put it all together," she said. "But that didn't last more than an hour."
The Vasa Lodge also sells Pepparkakor cookies, another long-standing favorite.
The Lower Columbia Danish Society makes aebleskiver and frikadeller ever year.
In May, the group meets to mix the dry ingredients for the aebleskiver, which are a bit like pancakes. The moist ingredients are mixed in at the festival.
Lutefisk, anyone? File photo by Lori Assa.For the 630 Frikadeller, a kind of Danish meatball, the pork is pan-fried, baked and frozen before the festival weekend. The red cabbage is also prepared ahead of time, then reheated.
"It's a lot of fun when you get together to make it all, but it's pretty lengthy," said Jeannette Davis, Danish Society president.
Davis said that while everyone has Jack in the Box and McDonald's in common, this festival offers a chance to try unique foods.
"It's great that youth have an opportunity to taste things from where they came from and taste a new culture," she said.
The Finnish Brotherhood makes rice pudding every year, but except for gathering the supplies (some 90 gallons of milk and 100 pounds of rice), all the work is done the day of the event.
As Corleen Mathews served up some Finnish prune tarts at Last year's festival, Andy Carlson rolled some Norwegian krumkake, hot off the iron. File photo by Lori Assa.The pudding is made in huge vats at the Finnish lodge, then trucked over to the fairgrounds warm.
"If the weather is hot at all, it's a very hot job," said Rosemary Ginther, rice pudding chairwoman. "But it's well worth the effort."
The recipe has been passed down through the years and continues to be a hit at the festival.
"There's just something about this recipe, and I can't give it out because it's a Finnish secret, but it's so creamy and delicious," Ginther said.
The 2005 Scandinavian Midsummer Festival Court consists of, from left, Miss Denmark Maren Berg-Rooper, Miss Finland Lisa Shepard, Miss Norway Sara Drage and Miss Sweden Chelsea Ogren. Photo by Lori Assa.The rice pudding is served with a fruit soup made of prunes and raisins. Fruit soup is often served on Finnish holidays.
In the old country, fresh fruit was hard to come buy, and rice was a staple, said Elli Riutta, president of the Finnish Brotherhood Auxiliary.
"And when immigrants came over, it was one of the cheaper foods to fix, and easy - like salt salmon," she said.
Those with Scandinavian blood in their veins find it hard to resist the recipes their mothers and grandmothers used to make.
"I come out of there weighing 10 pounds more," joked Greta Passetti, Finnish Brotherhood president. "I go from booth to booth nibbling. It's so good."
Dressed in traditional costumes for a dance performance, (from left) Kelsie Anne Hoppes, Emmi Collier and Meg Dowaliby waited for the beginning of the coronation ceremony last year. Photo by Lori Assa.If you go
What: The Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
Where: Clatsop County Fairgrounds, on Oregon Highway 202
When: 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, June 17; 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday, June 18; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 19
Admission: $6 for an adult three-day souvenir button, $2 for children ages 6 to 12, children age 5 and younger are free. Parking is $2 per day or $5 for a weekend pass. On Sunday's Family Day, children 6 to 12 are admitted free with a paid adult.
On the Web: www.astoriascanfest.com
Highlights: 7:30 p.m. Friday: Coronation of Miss Scandinavia and program, at the indoor arena
Noon Saturday: Flag raising at the outdoor stage, then raising of Midsummer Pole
1 to 2 p.m. Saturday: Nordic, Viking and Scandia Dancers of Astoria at the outdoor stage
7 p.m. Saturday: Brent Buswell, accordionist, at the indoor arena
8 a.m. Sunday: Troll Stroll/Run through the Olney countryside
11 a.m. Sunday: Interdenominational Worship Service at the indoor exhibit hall.