Nordic Midsummer Festival returns to East Portland

FUN VIDEO INCLUDED | See why folks from outer East Portland – in fact, from all over the Pacific Northwest – arrived to take part in this cultural event loaded with entertainment …

After being cancelled by the pandemic for two years, many people were eager to experience another Oregon Midsummer Festival when it returned this June

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

One of the larger cultural festivals in Oregon returned to historic, nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park on June 11: The Oregon Midsummer Festival.

In the Nordic nations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, it’s a tradition to “warm up” after a long cold winter by celebrating Midsummer with friends, food, and drinks.

Even when the festival took place an “atmospheric river” flowing over our area that weekend, the rain showers didn’t stop people – including many without Scandinavian roots – to come and celebrate the day with centuries-old traditions.

Nordic Northwest Board President John Nelson says they’re very pleased at the turnout to this year’s Midsummer Festival.

“This has been an annual festival, except for the past two years when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Nelson, Board President of Nordic Northwest, the organization which produces the annual event.

“Because of the weather, we weren’t sure how many people would turn out, or how many vendors would actually attend – but, this has turned out to be very successful. It more than met our expectations for this year,” Nelson told East Portland News.

“Our organization represents, and works on behalf of, smaller organizations that represent the five Nordic nations,” explained Nelson. “We are the third largest ethnic group in the Pacific Northwest, and in the state of Oregon.”

-3 Set up like a small village, guests visit this camp to see what how Nordic people lived in times past.

“Hundreds of thousands of folks in this region have Scandinavian ancestry, so it’s important that we share our foods, language, and genealogy – all of which carry on these traditions,” asserted Nelson.

“Additionally, at this festival, we can share our culture with residents of the greater Portland area, as well as people in our region,” he went on.

These Swedish pancake crepe makers – volunteers Quentin Davis and Eric Johansson from Harmoni Lodge 472 – work continuously, preparing thin Swedish pancakes that may be topped with lingonberry jam.

Wearing floral crowns, and dressed in traditional clothing, Raphael Paglia and Giovanna Paglia enjoy the sausage luncheon.

Some 20 craft vendors composed a Nordic marketplace offering vintage finds, locally-made artisan crafts, and Nordic gear.

After making the crown wreath for Finn, mom Emmy Ivarsson – from Sweden, but now living in Montavilla – makes one for herself.

At one time or another during their festival, it appeared as if everyone made their way to the make-it-yourself-flower-crown area to create their own floral head wreath – traditionally done to ensure good health throughout the year, in traditional Midsummer celebrations for centuries in Scandinavia.

The heavy rains from the night before turned the main open area into a muddy bowl, but that didn’t slow the hearty lawn games, such as tug-of-war. Participants smiled and wore their mud-splattered clothing as a badge of honor after the games had concluded.

Volunteers step carefully on wet grass as they bring the Maypole to be raised at the festival.

Using staves, poles, and brute force, volunteers lifted the Maypole into place.

And everyone in attendance looked forward to the “Raising of the Majstång”, referring to the floral-decorated cross – interpreted by the announcer in English as the “Maypole”.

It was carried in as part of a colorful “Parade of Scandinavian Nations” – with the participants bravely slipping and sliding on the mud as they marched in.

Let the dancing begin! In the center of the circle, a dance instructor guides participants through learning the steps of traditional dances.

After volunteers successfully hoisted it into place, participants gathered in a circle for traditional line dances, done to live authentic music. And, on two stages throughout the festival, dancers and musicians gave performances.

Watch video highlights of this great cultural event:

If you’re interested in Nordic culture, see all of the events offered through Nordic Northwest at their “Nordia House” by visiting their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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