Families from all over the Pacific Northwest come to enjoy this year’s Portland Scandinavian Midsummer Festival again held at historic Oaks Amusement Park.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Those who enjoy, or are just curious about, Nordic traditions flocked to the 91st annual Portland Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, again taking place at nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park June 8.
Parking was scarce in The Oaks’ capacious free lots, when families streamed in to enjoy a party to welcome “midsummer” in the way it is done in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.
Festival Co-Chairs Kristi Gustafson and Sassa Anders Carder take a brief break to tell about this year’s Portland Scandinavian Midsummer Festival.
“It’s a celebration of summer; a wonderful outdoor event with flower crowns, a beer garden, live entertainment, kids’ crafts, lots of good food, and makers presenting Nordic wares,” Nordic Northwest Events & Programs Manager Sassa Anders Carver succinctly described for us the goings on.
“And, everyone looks forward to the community effort of raising, then celebrating around the very traditional Swedish Majstang (Mid-Summer Pole) in the afternoon,” Anders Carver told East Portland News.
Helping to decorate the Majstang before it’s hoisted into place are Elise Christopherson, Aiynna Christopherson, Runic Kasten, and Cora Kasten.
Kids’ crafts abound at this year’s Midsummer Festival.
Kristi Gustafson, the festival’s Co-Chair and President of the League of Swedish Societies, talked why this celebration has thrived for decades: “This event celebrates the traditions of people from the Nordic countries; not only Sweden, but also the cultures of the peoples of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway, who have brought a lot to the history of the world, past and present.
“After a typically long, cold winter, Scandinavians take this time to enjoy getting out and being in nature during the longest days of the year, to celebrate with family and friends.”
Energetically showing off their terpsichorean traditions are members of Leikarringen of Portland.
With a mighty heave-ho, volunteers raise the Majstang before the traditional Scandinavian line-dancing begins.
The day-long festival isn’t only for Scandinavian people, Anders Carver pointed out. “You certainly don’t have to be Nordic to be welcome here and enjoy it. And, it’s a fun way to learn about Scandinavian people and their customs, and appreciate their cultural heritage,” she said – pointing out that the festival is registered as an “Oregon Heritage Tradition”.
Elisabeth Mendenhall, with Harmoni Lodge 472, serves traditional Swedish pancakes.
Representing Finnish groups at a booth is Greg Wikman, dressed in traditional garments from the Lappi Province – the largest and northernmost region of Finland.
Some of those who came helped to decorate the Midsummer pole; others made flower wreaths, indulged in Nordic summer delicacies, and played games on the lawn – all while celebrating the warmth of long summer days.
Anders Carver said she just couldn’t name her favorite part of the festival, because she enjoys all of it so much.
Gustafson thought about our question and replied with a smile, “That’s a tough one. It’s somewhere among enjoying the food, the ‘Sma grodorna’ (the ‘Little Frogs’ dance), and the procession and the raising of the Majstang.”
Laura Johnson tries on an hand-crafted apron, based on an old-world pattern, designed by Ingvill Montgomery of Hovenden Formal Farm Wear.