A Scandinavian tradition

Brightly-colored outfits are an integral part of the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival.

‘I remember when …” is a popular conversation starter when you talk to locals who recall good times growing up in Clatsop County. Those memories tend to be around events — festivals, fairs, state championships, regatta parades. Those events bind the community with a collective memory and identity.

It’s festival season again, kicked off with the Crab, Seafood and Wine festival, carrying through the summer with Sunday Market in Astoria, concerts in the Warrenton park, Astoria Pride, Scandinavian Festival, Fair, Regatta, Brewfest ... and I’ve just named a few. For those of us without a long history here, it’s a time when we can create new memories for a future history that will include us and our festival stories, too.

It’s worth the effort to take in our local heritage, culture and food at summer events on the North Coast. For one thing, it’s a lot of fun. Who doesn’t like the idea of burning last year’s bad mojo by throwing your hex on the fire at the Scandinavian Festival? Beer gardens and eating crab? Parade royalty and queenie wrist-waves to the crowd? Count me in.

But for all of us spectators who enjoy the fun, music and food that these events bring us, someone had to plan it, find a place for it and recruit people to set it up, take tickets, clean up. Usually those recruits are volunteers.

Volunteers aren’t saps with nothing better to do. Most people I know who volunteer have full schedules with work and family. They also have a full life — they prize the good things like festivals and events that make our communities vibrant for the people who live here. Volunteers share a philosophy — if it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.

Unfortunately, filling volunteer shifts for events has become a nightmare for event planners. We’re all pretty good at coming up with excuses for not volunteering: not enough time, too tired after work, what will I do about the kids/spouse/parents/dog? All the same excuses I use to avoid exercise. But like avoiding exercise, it really comes down to not making it a habit. Volunteering is like exercising your community muscle. The more often you do it, the stronger your community gets and the better you feel.

Think about events lost over the years due to lack of interest. Usually those stories start with “THEY should have ...” or “If THEY only would have” or “THEY should start that up again.”

Guess what. We are THEY. If we want to continue to have collective memories of great fun at local events, we need to exercise our community muscle and volunteer.

There are always opportunities to contribute during the events coming up during the summer. You can search our events calendar at dailyastorian.com/events/. Or spend time with community groups and nonprofits on the North Coast — you can find them in our community pages most Thursdays.

Kari Borgen is publisher of The Astorian. Reach her at 503-325-4955 or kborgen@dailyastorian.com.

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