No matter where your ancestors may have come from, you can be a Finn or a Swede, a Norwegian, a Dane or an Icelander this weekend at the 39th annual Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. It's the hometown festival everybody looks forward to, and you're invited to join in the celebration of Astoria's Scandinavian heritage.
The annual extravaganza features jolly music, authentic Scandinavian attire, lots of dancing and singing, a beer garden and dozens of craft and food booths.
On Friday, booths are open from 2 to 6:30 p.m. The coronation of Miss Scandinavia 2006 follows at 7 p.m. She will be chosen from among four young women, each representing one of the Scandinavian countries: Miss Denmark, Kaitlin Oja; Miss Finland, Maren Holyoak; Miss Norway, Erika Huckestein; and Miss Sweden, Danielle Carlson.
After the coronation, everyone, including the new Miss Scandinavia, will throw straw hexes into a bonfire for good luck. Apparently, the ritual works. After all, this festival has been going on for nearly 40 years.
Probably the most striking feature of the Scandinavian Festival is the number of people, young and old, wearing authentic traditional Scandinavian clothing. Many, perhaps most, ensembles are imported from the old country or passed down from one generation to the next as a way of preserving the family's heritage. The colorful garments, many elaborately embroidered, are often specific to the particular region in one of the five Scandinavian countries that their ancestors called home.
You'll see women and girls wearing a variety of long skirts and blouses, aprons, long stockings, hats, headscarves and belts. Men and boys will be clad in white shirts, vests, long pants or breeches and stockings. Stripes and plaids are popular, and many will be wearing string ties and black hats. The effect is like history springing to life in full color.
The costumes of the Ballerup Folk Dancers are especially beautiful and elaborate, says festival co-chair Katrina Ivanoff, who was 1984 runner-up for the Miss Scandinavia crown. "They're coming here directly from Denmark and this is their first stop on the Coast. They'll be here all weekend," she says.
Dancing feet and tasty treats
Music and dancing surrounds the Midsummer Pole at last year's festival.The Ballerup dancers and the grand concert of the American Union of Swedish Singers' Western Division Convention are the featured entertainment for this year's festival. Many regional entertainers like the Katrilli Finnish Folk Dancers of Seattle will also take a turn on stage, as will much-loved local performers and groups, including the Nordic, Viking and Scandia Dancers of Astoria, the Kantele Players from Naselle, Wash., and Astoria musicians Sven & Jorgen.
The food is as big a draw as the entertainment.
"People like to eat at this festival," says Saara Matthews, "so get there early to get your favorites. They might run out of lefse!" Matthews is in charge of organizing the booths that fill the big arena, offering all sorts of goodies and crafts.
Gathered around the bonfire, folks toss in hexes to burn off a year's negativity. Photo courtesy Margit Bowler.Lefse is a sort of Scandinavian tortilla, spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. And there are little ball-shaped Danish pancakes called aebelskiver, Danish meatballs called frikadellar, Finnish fruit soup and rice pudding, Norwegian open-faced smoked sturgeon sandwiches, salmon and sturgeon chowder, sausages, baked goods like cardamom braid and prune tarts, and lutefisk, which is dried cod, soaked in lye and then boiled to achieve its characteristic gelatinous consistency.
Just kidding about the lutefisk - they're saving it for Christmas.
But there will be a salmon dinner 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, prepared by the Astoria Lions Club; breakfast 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday by the Scandinavian Cafe of Vancouver, Wash.; Swedish pea soup and rye bread lunch by the Vasa Lodge 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and again noon to 3 p.m. Sunday; dinner by the Scandinavian Cafe 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday; and a Pannukaku (pancake) breakfast 7 to 11 a.m. Sunday by the Rotary Club.
The Troll greets young visitors to last year's festival.To work up an appetite, hit the craft booths and check out the pottery, handmade Christmas ornaments, jewelry, wooden toys and tole painting while the kids enjoy Barnfest activities and games designed for the little ones.
And always be on the lookout for the Troll, whose kiss brings good luck to fair maidens.
They're the "Swedes of Note" - you'll know the ladies when you see them at the Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival in their white shirts, long navy skirts and brightly-colored scarves, the men in singers' caps, white shirts, four-in-hand ties, navy coats and gray trousers. They are holding their American Union of Swedish Singers Western Division Convention in Astoria and will present their Grand Concert Saturday, June 17, in the Exhibit Hall at approximately 7 p.m., after the 6:30 p.m. Honored Immigrant Program. A dance follows until midnight with an evening to remember.
Around Portland, the choruses are known as the Scandia Ladies Chorus and Scandinavian Male Chorus; the Seattle choruses are the Swedish Women's Chorus and the Svea Male Chorus. The convention brings hundreds of singers to Astoria June 15 to 18 for lasting memories in the making.