New Sweden community comes together for annual Midsommar

12 months ago

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — A little rain did not stop people from celebrating Swedish culture during the annual Midsommar festival on Saturday.

People came from as far as Florida, Oklahoma, Vermont and New Hampshire to honor their family’s heritage or learn about a distinct part of Aroostook’s history.

Midsommar originated in 1871 with the first Swedish immigrants to the town known today as New Sweden. Each generation has kept many of the same customs and activities, including traditional Swedish clothes, hair wreaths made of flowers and songs performed in the Swedish language.

Kenzie Lane, 7, paints a dala horse while her mother Kirstin Lane looks on. The Lanes were visiting New Sweden, near Kirstin’s hometown of Westmanland, during the Midsommar festival Saturday. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

For a good part of the mid-morning, heavy rain delayed decorating the 30-foot-tall wooden maypole. But the rain held off long enough for folks to adorn the pole with flowers and welcome The New Sweden Little Folk Dancers.

The group of more than 30 children and teens performed traditional Swedish songs and danced around the maypole before inviting guests to join them in the finale, “Now We Have the Sun.”

Children perform “The Little Frog Dance” as part of New Sweden’s Midsommar festival. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Jessica Ciszewski was glad to see her children Caleb, 12, Tobias, 11, Annika, 9, and Zoe, 7, perform the same dances and songs she learned while growing up in New Sweden. The Ciszewskis now live in the same New Sweden house that once belonged to Jessica’s grandparents.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” Jessica Ciszewski said. “I love it when we all come together as a community.”

Midsommar once again attracted hundreds of residents and visitors. The event has become special for those not from the area but who now have deep community ties.

Cassie Germain of New Sweden remembers first coming to Midsommar when her daughter Avenea was 6 months old, after the family moved to New Sweden from Vermont in 2010.

Though the family does not have Swedish roots, Avenea, now 13, is part of the Little Folk Dancers.

“There aren’t many places that keep the roots of their community alive,” Cassie Germain said. “I love the community that [Midsommar] creates.”

Midsommar brought many people back to their roots, including Kirstin Lane. Originally from nearby Westmanland, Lane and family traveled from Vermont to attend the festival.

Finn Bondeson (front), Sven Bondeson (back) and Ethan Chen (right) decorate the Midsommar maypole with help from 7-year-old Zoe Ciszewski. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Lane’s daughter Kenzie, 7, enjoyed painting a dala horse. The wooden toy is one of many traditions that originated in Sweden and became a popular symbol of the country.

“This is the first time we’ve been back [to Midsommar] in a while,” Kirstin Lane said, while watching Kenzie paint.

Avenea Germain, 13, of New Sweden (left) dances with Mallory Olson, 11, of Hamlin during Midsommar. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

People also gathered inside the New Sweden Historical Museum for an exhibit dedicated to old-fashioned kitchen items. Longtime museum volunteer Debbie Eustis-Grandy of New Sweden was glad to see such a high turnout.

“You never know what will happen when the weather isn’t good, but it’s been steady all morning,” Eustis-Grandy said.

Tobias Ciszewski, 11, of New Sweden (left), Naomi Theiss, 10, (second from left) of Stockholm, Sam Lowry, 9, of Stockholm (second from right), and Zoe Ciszewski, 7, of New Sweden (right) dance and sing Swedish songs during the annual Midsommar festival. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)