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Scandinavian Fest in Oaks Park intros summer season


by: DAVID F. ASHTON - The procession of flags from Scandinavian countries leads the men carrying in the Maypole in this years Midsummer Festival in June in Oaks Park. Pacific Northwest Scandinavians this year continued their long tradition of celebrating the Summer Solstice with food, dance, music, entertainment, and the raising of the Majstang (Maypole). It all took place on June 12 – more than a week before the actual longest day of the year, June 21, which is the first day of summer. The scene again this year was Oaks Amusement Park in Inner Southeast.

“Here in Portland, this tradition has been celebrated for 86 continuous years, as the ‘Scandinavian Midsummer Festival’,” said new Scandinavian Heritage Foundation Executive Director Greg Smith. “We’re a nonprofit organization that coordinates Scandinavian events and information throughout the Pacific Northwest all year long.”

It’s looked forward to by many, Smith commented, because it’s always a fun, family-friendly day filled with games, dancing, food, and Scandinavian crafts.

Indeed, visitors to the amusement park saw many Scandinavians attired in traditional dress, and enjoyed the wafted odor of thin Swedish pancakes being cooked on the griddle by Harmoni Lodge #472 volunteers.

Danish juggler and physical comedian Henrik Bothe – now a Sellwood resident, and occasional “Sundae in the Park” entertainer – returned to the festival and made his audience of hundreds gasp, giggle, and laugh, as he rode the high unicycle, juggled golf clubs, and presented his famous plate-spinning act.

At 1:15 pm musicians led in a procession Scandinavians, dressed in the tradition of their respective countries, along with children, and twelve strong men who carried in the Maypole. After a few heaves-and-hos, the Maypole was erected, and the traditional line dances began.

“Events like this help connect people with where they come from, sharing the influences that have come to this country from so many other countries throughout the world,” Smith observed.

“I think we tend to get isolated in our 21st Century communities, and tend to miss out on the lessons and cultural richness from those who have come before us,” Smith reflected. “This includes their art, music, and ideas. This is a way to bring them all back together, and pass it on down to future generations.”

Find out more about the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation online: www.scanheritage.org .