Hundreds attend New Sweden’s Midsommar Festival

6 years ago

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — Over 500 people took in New Sweden’s three-day Midsommar festival this past weekend, June 22-24, to enjoy music, games, food, crafts, and to get a first-hand glimpse of Swedish culture in northern Maine.

The festival, which typically lands on or around the longest day of the year, has been held in The County ever since William Ridgery Thomas Jr. established the Swedish Colony and led Swedish immigrants to what is now known as New Sweden in 1870.

Roughly 20 volunteers start planning the event at the start of each year. Kathy Robinson, who co-chairs the Midsommar Committee along with Brenda Jepson, said the planning usually goes smoothly, as many volunteers have organized the event for decades.

“A lot of people are involved,” Robinson said, “but we all know pretty much what we’re doing so we don’t have to plan too far in advance.”

Mary Lou Nelson, who also helped plan the event, said that organizers meet several times throughout the year, and that each member is delegated specific tasks.

“It goes right up until just before Midsommar,” she said, adding the festival has expanded over the years.

“It used to be just for one evening in the Lutheran Church,” she said, “but it’s expanded and spread out into this area [at the New Sweden Historical Society on the Station Road].”

The festival began at 9 a.m. on Friday morning and went until Sunday afternoon, with music from Canadian duo October Gold and Swedish Meatballs, a local ensemble that played classical Swedish music throughout the festival. The highlight of Saturday’s festivities, however, was the hoisting of the midsommarstång, or midsommar pole, decorated with flowers, which children in traditional dress danced around.

Robinson said volunteers began preparing the pole Friday morning by picking flowers. They decorated the pole Saturday with the flowers, and on Sunday brought it to Thomas Park, a site named after the leader of the Swedish Colony.


(Photos by Christopher Bouchard)

The co-chair also recognized the hard work of volunteers at Loring Job Corps, who came out on Friday to set up tents, tables, barrels, and chairs for vendors and guests. They returned on Saturday afternoon to disassemble everything, and Robinson said they are a “terrific bunch of young men” for donating their time to the festival.

Over the years, Robinson said she has seen numerous guests come all the way from Sweden to New Sweden, and that they often tell her “You make yours bigger and better than we do in Sweden.”

In just two years, New Sweden will celebrate their sesquicentennial during a four-day event, and Robinson says she is expecting several Swedish guests for the occasion.

Lifelong New Sweden resident Wendell Spooner was one of many enjoying the Saturday afternoon festivities. While he is not involved in planning the event, he does plan to “sit here by this building every year,” he said, referring to the old barn by which he sat.

“Years ago, Midsommar was a very small celebration,” said Spooner. “On Saturday night, they’d have a band play some music, with games for kids, and then a service at the Lutheran Church, and that was about it. Now, we go for three days.”

He said Midsommar’s expansion came in the 1980s, when a couple of non-Lutheran families moved to town and suggested opening the festival to the community.

“It sounded like a good idea to everyone at the time,” said Spooner, “so that’s what we did.”

Spooner said he mostly looks forward to longer daylight hours, and “getting a chance to see old friends or new people interested in living in the area.”

Like Spooner, the Peterson family has been attending Midsommar for well over a decade, and each year every member of the family dons traditional Swedish attire.

Kristi Peterson said she and her family have been coming for 14 years, and that each year brings a “fairly decent-sized crowd.”

“This year started a little slow,” she said, “but other than that the crowd has been pretty good because it’s nice out.”

Her husband, Glen Peterson, said he’s looking forward to seeing people he “hasn’t seen in a long time” and having his youngest child carry the banner before the midsommar pole is placed in the ground.

Like Peterson and Spooner, Nelson also looks forward to meeting old friends during the festival.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said, “but it’s a lot of fun. You meet a lot of friends, both old and new.”