Clatsop County Fairgrounds, 92937 Walluski Loop Third full weekend in June www.astoriascanfest.com
The Pacific Northwest enjoys a rich Nordic heritage, having attracted immigrants from Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) and Finland as early as the mid-1800s, and in just a twenty-year period, from 1890 to 1910, more than 150,000 Scandinavians settled in the Pacific Northwest. Astoria, the first permanent US settlement on the Pacific Coast and incorporated as a city in 1876, attracted Scandinavian and Finnish settlers in substantial numbers in the late nineteenth century, many of them migrating there to earn a living fishing the bountiful Columbia River. To this day, many descendants of the Nordic immigrants still reside in and around Astoria.
Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival – Top USA Festivals Photo Gallery
This pleasant and popular north coast community celebrates its Nordic roots each year with the Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. Historically midsummer was celebrated on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, but its roots can be traced to pre-Christian solstice celebrations; in 1952, the Swedish Parliament decreed that this major festival be held on a weekend, so it always falls between June 20 and 26. The Midsummer Festival in Astoria began its modern incarnation as a Brownie troop presentation in 1968, and soon grew into a citywide celebration. During its three-day run, this colorful and educational event features myriad Scandinavian musical, dance, and theater group performances, as a well as an engaging array of traditional Midsummer Fest activities, and numerous vendors offering handcrafts, imported Scandinavian goods, and traditional Scandinavian foods. Special meals—Beef Dinner, Viking Dinner, Midnight Sun Breakfast, Pannukakku Breakfast— provide a chance to try traditional preparations at very modest prices.
The vendor area and beer gardens open on Friday afternoon, and Friday evening brings the Queen’s Coronation in which a panel of judges selects Miss Scandinavia for that year. This festive event includes presentations on Scandinavian heritage as well as theatrical performances, and then ushers in the Torchlight Parade, in which Scandia men bearing flaming torches escort the newly crowned Miss Scandinavia and audience members to the bonfire to throw straw hexes into the flames. This tradition symbolizes ridding oneself of bad luck for the year. Accordionists play tunes and dances tend to break out around the fire. Saturday kicks off with the Midnight Sun Breakfast and the Running of the Trolls (register online or at the festival), with several footrace distances to choose from. Entertainment, ongoing throughout the weekend, highlights superb musicians and actors, and also includes a living history display called the Empire of Chivalry and Steel Viking Encampment, in which costumed reenactors demonstrate crafts, tournaments, armor making, and combat arts from the culture of the Middle Ages.
The festival parade begins midday on Saturday, featuring Miss Scandinavia and her court, costumed dancers and entertainers, representatives from the Scandinavian lodges, and family groups parading through the arena and festival grounds to the outdoor stage for the traditional Flag Raising and Midsummer Pole ceremony. Saturday festivities go deep into the night, with a variety of additional activities held throughout the day and Celebrate Nordic heritage at the Astoria evening, including the Parade Scandinavian Midsummer Festival of Costumes, providing attendees a chance to speak with traditionally attired festival participants about their costumes. Hungry fest-goers can dive into traditional foods of many kinds, with lefse (Norwegian flat bread) being a major attraction. Ultimately the Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival comes to a close with a formal flag ceremony on Sunday afternoon, but not before throngs of attendees have garnered newfound appreciation for the Northwest’s Nordic heritage and perhaps their own family histories.