Jamestown has become an important center for the celebration of the Scandinavian heritage thanks significantly to the Scandinavian Folk Festival. People attending last year's festival came from 28 states, and 144 people came from five different foreign countries. This year, the 11th annual Scandinavian Folk Festival will be held July 20-22 at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds.
Why is the Jamestown area so Swedish?
From 1850 1925, 1/5 of Sweden's population immigrated to America. One million Swedes came across the Atlantic, leaving only 4 million people in Sweden. The majority of these emigrants were young healthy Swedes, which gravely depleted Sweden's workforce and caused far-reaching negative effects on its economy. On the other hand, as the Industrial Revolution was just beginning to take off in America, these new Scandinavian immigrants, known for their hard work ethic, became an important cog in the wheel of our own industrial expansion.
Many Swedes settled permanently in Minnesota and Illinois, and soon Chicago was second only to Stockholm in numbers of Swedish speaking residents. But by the decade of 1890 1900, the third largest settlement of Swedes in America was the Western New York region surrounding Jamestown and stretching southward into Northwestern Pennsylvania along U.S. Route 6. In the 1920s Jamestown had the highest percentage of Swedish citizens of any city in the United States. In Jamestown, Frewsburg and Busti, many residents spoke Swedish more easily than English, and korv, pickled herring, and dried codfish were readily available, as was the fragrance of limpa rye bread baking in the oven.
To determine where the descendants of those early Swedish immigrants are today, we can turn to census data. The U.S. Census in 2000 reports that 4 million Americans claimed Swedish ancestry at the turn of the 21st century. In this particular U.S. Census, more than 20 percent of residents living in the towns of Kiantone, Carroll and Frewsburg claimed Swedish ancestry. Nineteen percent of Gerry residents claimed that their ancestors were Swedish, and the same percent held true for residents of the town of Ellicott. Lakewood, Falconer and the town of Ellery came in at 18 percent. Sixteen percent of Jamestown and Celoron residents claimed Swedish ancestry, and following close behind at 15 percent were the residents of the town of Poland.
These are very significant numbers because the greatest immigration from Sweden had occurred well more than a century before. Even though very few of these Swedish descendants in our region speak fluent Swedish today, many families and churches continue to observe a variety of Swedish holiday customs, particularly at Midsummer and at Christmas. Perhaps this 2000 Census data explains why Nordic features are so commonly seen all around us today. It is very understandable why one of the most popular, well-attended and largest annual Scandinavian Festivals in America is held right here in the Jamestown area.
This Year's Festival
The Scandinavian Folk Festival has a wide variety of events scheduled. The headliner for the main entertainment stage is the Rockridge Brothers from Stockholm, Sweden. This group attended last year's festival, and their style of bluegrass music is back by popular demand. Two other bands that play the old-time folk music are Svenska Spelman and Nordanvind. Their instruments include the fiddle, guitar, nyckelharpa, mandolin, banjo, bass and accordion. The Jamestown Municipal Band will present a special concert of Scandinavian music. Vocals include the Viking Chorus and Ylsa Maj. The Thule Lodge Swedish Folk Dance teams will be performing on the large dance floor.
Dr. Julie Boozer has created a compelling series of lectures/discussions including the following topics:
The third largest ethnic group on the Titanic was the Swedes, so many of their stories will be presented.
This is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Jews during World War II with forged Swedish documents. The Jamestown area Wallenberg Committee will have an exhibit as well as make a presentation.
The Fenton History Center has the most resources for Swedish genealogical research within hundreds of miles, and these resources will be reviewed as well as made available over the weekend.
The Swedish language of our ancestors will be taught.
A just released video about the Viking settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland (1000 AD) will be shown. Stories and humor from the Viking era will be highlighted.
The earliest local Swedish settlements in Hessel Valley and Skandia, including a display of artifacts from the Hessel Valley Lutheran Church will be shared.
This is the 100th anniversary of the death of August Strindberg, the father of modern Swedish literature, so the relationship of his life to immigration will be explored.
A panel of local citizens will share stories of their Scandinavian ancestors.
There will be a discussion about Swedish songs in English with the opportunity to sing along.
Five special events will occur over the weekend. On Friday, July 20, at 6 p.m. there will be a Swedish meatball cooking contest with a $100 first prize, $50 second and $25 third prize.
Who makes the best Swedish meatballs in town? On Saturday, July 21, at 11 a.m., Richard Lundquist will play the festival's new wooden horn (Naverlur) from Dalarna, Sweden to announce the beginning of the Midsummer procession. All the Festival musicians and folk dancers will parade to erect the flower bedecked pole and lead traditional ring dances around it. The whole community is encouraged to join in the dancing just as it has been done for generations. The annual Viking lawn game of Kubb has its own tournament on Saturday afternoon with trophies to the winners.
At 9:45 p.m. on Saturday a large bonfire will be ignited in the tradition of scaring away the wild animals. On Sunday at 3 p.m., the Swedish Folk Dance Worship Service will be celebrated. This service in the Lutheran tradition will be led by Pastor Alan Anderson and consists entirely of folk music, folk musicians and at times folk dancing.
The Festival Market tent is the focal point for shopping. The Loppis (Swedish flea market) offers a wide variety of new and heirloom items. The Gift Shop has a wide variety of T-shirts, books and many other treasures. The Made in Jamestown booth offers an extensive array of locally crafted Scandinavian items. Many other vendors from near and far will be present around the grounds offering many difficult to find Nordic products.
The Scandinavian countries are known for their wonderful ethnic food and many of these will be offered, either as a meal or for sampling. On Friday, the Thule Lodge will prepare their famous Swedish meatball dinner. Saturday and Sunday the festival offers a wide variety of Swedish foods including kaldolmar, korv, Swedish meatballs, fruit soupa, yellow pea soup, pickled herring, rotmos, bruna boner, cucumber salad and lingonberry drink. Sunday morning Swedish pancakes with lingonberries will be served.
All weekend the American Scandinavian Heritage Foundation will serve Norm Owen's world famous korv burgers on a rye bun. The Kafe Stuga offers coffee, fresh baked items, ice cream and strawberries. Jones 212 Bakery and Cafe will be serving some of their delicious Swedish baked items. St Timothy's Lutheran church will have a variety of American fare throughout the weekend.
The Viking encampment will be in the Viking Village theme area for the weekend re-enacting many aspects of their daily life. Children can enjoy the gentle Norwegian Fjord horse named Harry Trotter. From Philadelphia, the Viking ship Norseman will be docked in the Viking Village after having sailed on Chautauqua Lake on Thursday, July 19, weather permitting. Their sailing will include a visit to the Lawson Boating Heritage Center in Bemus Point.
The Culture Tent offers an entire weekend of demonstrations by Scandinavian crafters. Such crafts as chip carving, hardanger embroidery, Swedish weaving, wood carving, cord weaving, Norwegian knitting, and rosemaling will be demonstrated. Workshops are scheduled during the weekend for people to make their own crafts such as a midsummer head wreath. The Culture Tent also has the Children and Family Center with special activities such as a Swedish coin scramble, crafts and storytelling.
The gate passes for all of the above events are $7 on Friday, July 20, $8 on Saturday, July 21, and $4 on Sunday, July 22. After 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday admission is $5 for the Rockridge Brothers concerts. Children 16 and under as well as volunteers are admitted free. The Festival is made possible by hundreds of volunteers, so please step forward if interested. In Sweden there is the tradition of name days and the festival is honoring these. If your name day is during the Festival you can get in free. The names for July 20 are Margareta and Greta; for July 21 are Johanna and Jane; and for July 22 Magdalena and Madeleine. Weekend gate passes are available for $15 at Ecklof Bakery, Peterson Farm or the Reg Lenna Box Office.
The slogan of the Scandinavian Folk Festival is to "Behold Scandinavia." This article describes the wide selection of learning and fun opportunities being offered to encourage one to become Nordic. At the Festival, one can experience the sights, sounds and tastes of their Nordic ancestors as well the traditions of the Jamestown area. For more information visit scandinavianjamestown.org or call 484-0415. Welcome to Scandinavia.