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Summer Solstice, Scandinavian Flavor


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Grown men in knee high socks, complete with tassels, holding hands with women crowned by flower wreaths, dancing around a 18-foot May Pole is a sight to behold. And it is a quite common one in Estes Park on the summer solstice. That’s because it is home to the Mid-Summer Festival, a celebration that rings in the longest day of the year, Scandinavian style.

Sounds a bit strange at first, but it turns out this culture has a pretty big following in Colorado with more than 30 Scandinavian groups in attendance. These culture aficionados are some of the most colorful people you can find. Trust us.

Perhaps the flavor they bring is why so many Coloradans, Scandinavian or otherwise, are attracted each year.

Take Cathy Allen, the fest’s first year chairperson. She has quite the collection of Norwegian hardanger embroidery, a style that combines cutout shapes with ornately-woven threads, and her kitchen is always stocked with traditional cardamom bread, which smells like spicy lavender. She’s 100 percent German, though.

“I’ve always loved it as long as I can remember,” Allen says. She’s been hooked on the cultural riches of Scandinavia ever since she went to nursery school in Sweden. She loves celebrating it with people who share her passion. That is why she has been coming to the festival for years and has recently taken over as chairperson.

She and many other followers are attracted to the festival and culture in general because it combines traditions from countries such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland. In all of these countries the Mid-Summer celebration is of great importance. The Estes Park version celebrates with many of the same events. For example, they decorate the maypole with greenery and freshly cut flowers (although the event is sans the lighting of the bonfires to ward off evil spirits).

The festival takes place at Bond Park, where a dance stage will be set up, 44 vendors will bring their goods, and a handful of Vikings will make camp. More than 4,000 come each year drawn by the extravagant attire, music and smell of food.

Allen’s favorite part is the food. She is always one of the first in line at the festival bakery to get a fresh loaf cardamom, which almost always sells out. The other food stalls sell traditional dishes including juicy sausages, savory meatballs, potato flat bread called lefse, and waffles with tart lingonberries.
Wedged in with all the food and Scandinavian craft venders are the Fjellborg Vikings run by Lauren Shultz. Shultz has devoted much of his life to promoting Viking history and culture.

Shultz and Allen both have helped the Scandinavian community flourish here and it shows. Just look out at the men in brightly colored short pants and poufy sleeve white blouses and women in light colored dresses and aprons. It’s truly a celebration.

It could just be the next big Colorado cultural movement.

Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
June 28-29, Estes Park

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