It was supposed to be the 50th anniversary of the Swedish American Patriotic League’s (SAPL) Midsummer festival in Sveadal, but through no fault of the people or place, this year the festival had to be moved some miles away. Only once before during this half century was it held offsite — in 1977, during another great drought, when it had to be held at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds.

Change of venue
The focus for 2017 was to celebrate a half century of the nation’s oldest Swedish Midsummer being held in Sveadal, the League’s heartland. No one had considered holding it elsewhere. However, Mother Nature had other plans: After six years of the California drought, during which Sveadal escaped a forest fire by less than a mile, the winter storms and floods that followed brought much destruction to the narrow, curvy two-lane road leading to Sveadal, which suffered several large landslides that washed away the creekside half of the road in several places. Indeed, even now during summer some of the hillsides are still weeping with new springs.
The road and the county park beyond Sveadal have been closed to the public, with access limited to residents, since January. In February the League and the Midsummer Planning Committee had to search a dozen sites to select an alternate. Then, with only three months to go before the event, word of the change of venue had to be spread far and wide. The new location, Saratoga Springs park, was relatively close and nicely located in a wooded and watered glen with a little creek near a huge viaduct.
This year, to make the festival affordable, SAPL had to subsidize the cost of the tickets; they are extremely grateful to the many organizations and individuals who donated money to allow this tradition to continue.
Another consequence of the venue change was that attendance had to be limited to 400 (that's less than a quarter of the typical attendance), and the timeframe for festivities was shortened nearly in half. Additionally no one could bring their own picnic nor could the League provide a smorgasbord. Instead the park provided American foods and beverages, which added to the admission price, but they did include a small swimming pool for kids and a fun zone with inflatable sites.


Midsummer continues
Despite all these compromises, SAPL produced quite an amazing Midsummer Festival on June 24. Most of the events were condensed into the packed schedule, and there is no doubt that one of the most popular sites was the much smaller, portable maypole designed by Fred Bianucci and constructed by Mike Sayegh. Since we couldn’t transport our huge Sveadal maypole, this 13-foot-tall pole was not merely the center of all the folk dancing but it was also the most photographed object. Undoubtedly, this second maypole will be retained for future midsummers.
This year the Midsummer Marknad had only half a dozen vendors (50 percent less than usual), but they did a good business and the League was most grateful for their continuing participation.
As people arrived, they gravitated to the vendor booths, then brought their copies of Nordstjernan and Nordic Reach with them to read at the picnic tables they chose. At about 11 a.m the visitors assembled around the two food lanes to fill their plates with several salads, BBQ chicken and tri-tip together with cookies. Self-served soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were free throughout the day.

The program
By 1:30 p.m. the parade crossed the park up to the stage, led by the musicians and those attired in Swedish provincial or national costumes. They were followed by the flagbearers (Michael Bray, U.S., and Dwayne Erickson, Sweden), the Parade Marshalls (Nina Webber and Fred Bianucci, president and vice president, respectively, of the Swedish Society of San Francisco) followed by the maids of honor, the national personifications, and finally the queen and her escort, preceded by her crown bearer and followed by her train bearers. The queen and her court were seated on a raised area bordered by a rock wall, and the distinguished guests sat in half a dozen chairs before the stage. The rest of the audience remained at their picnic tables, looking up to the stage and enjoying the brief program.
SAPL President Laura Carlson cordially welcomed all, explaining the circumstances which brought us to this pretty Saratoga Springs site. She thanked everyone for attending, and Andrea Massey (alto) and Paula Beroza (soprano) led the audience in singing the American and Swedish national anthems.
After Laura had presented and crowned the Midsummer Queen (chosen by the Swedish Society of San Francisco), Sonya Beroza, who gave a heartfelt talk, explaining how grateful she was for her heritage and history, which she had learned from her farmor Muriel Beroza, whom she missed on this occasion due to a temporary setback that day. Sonya has completed her first year at New York University’s Tisch School of Fine Arts, majoring in fine arts and minoring in political science. Last year Sonya and her family visited Sweden, where she met relatives on their family farm, Boa Hage, in the province of Blekinge.
The Hon. Consul General of Sweden Barbro Osher then spoke, giving another of her trademark warm and witty talks to the pleasure of all, bringing greetings from Sweden’s royal family to all assembled on this occasion and to all Swedes and Swedish Americans in the Bay Area.
As past president and current vice president, Conor Massey next brought forward and introduced this year’s Columbia, Challena Gilbert, after bestowing upon her a necklace memento. Representing Sveaborg Lodge (VOA#449, Concord), she grew up in the children’s club and became an adult member. She gave a most heartfelt talk, speaking of how grateful she was to her mom, Lena from Stockholm for teaching her Swedish. She is a recent graduate of St. John’s University in Queens, New York, with a major in Spanish and minor in international business. During a collegiate year abroad she also mastered French in France, and visited Sweden and Spain. Now she returns to Europe to flourish in business.
SAPL Past President Ken Weissenborn introduced his grand niece, Olivia Simms, a member of Tegnér Lodge (VOA#149, Oakland). As a varsity swimmer and team captain as well as a member of the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Foundation, she will attend the University of California at Davis this fall. Her great grandparents, John E. and Gladys Peterson, and successive generations of the extended family, have been leaders in the East Bay lodges and Sveadal. Her maternal grandmother was queen in 1952; and her great aunt Charlotte Weissenborn was queen in 1967, the only person to be queen at two midsummers in the same year, as the festival transitioned to Sveadal.
What was quite remarkable this year, since they could not hold a rehearsal, was the children’s sing-along. Linda Beroza, accompanied by husband Paul on the ukulele, chose a song that all of the kids knew (“If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands!”) with a rousing final verse adapted for the occasion. About two dozen children responded to her spontaneous invitation to come to the stage. It was fun for them and a hit with the audience.
Following that interlude, Ted Olsson announced all of the maids of honor in the Queen’s Court: Heather Hersh (Lindbergh Lodge, VOA#494, Palo Alto); Carina Whaley (Swedish Club of the San Francisco Bay Area); Lauren Hanlon (Svea Lodge, VOA#348, San Jose); Mackenzie Baughman (Sveadal Club, Sveadal); Haley Young (Sveadal Cabin Owners Association, Sveadal); Sarah Lipscomb (Fylgia Lodge, VOA#119, San Francisco); Monica Lundgren (Swedish Ladies Society, San Francisco); Emerald Dowd (Framåt Lodge, VOA#405, Berkeley); Viktoria Gilbert (Swedish Men’s Society of Oakland, Oakland).
This long tradition of young women representing each of SAPL's member organizations is a unique feature from the first of these midsummers. All the girls, as they rise through the ranks to the three embodiments of this binational celebration, have served in earlier midsummers. They know many in the audience held their position before them and that little girls watching them look forward to the year when they will be featured on stage.
At last Olsson introduced the queen’s train bearers, twins Kyra and Linnea Decker, and then the crown bearer, Svea Chapman.
The remainder of the day was dedicated to traditional Swedish folk dancing, led by Karin Forsell, a featured activity of the day. The first dance was for the Queen’s Court and the escorts. Proud dads and relatives as well as some boyfriends got a first dance, then everyone joined in. Forsell had all the frogs hopping, and line dances made it comfortable for everyone to join in whether or not one had a partner.
After about an hour, rather like Cinderella, everyone departed in their cars. It wasn't long before all the volunteers had the site cleared and this 123rd midsummer festival could be entered into the records as very successful.

All attendees, those in costumes, the musicians and dancers as well as current and former members of the court helped continue our tradition. Deep appreciation goes to the 2017 Midsummer Committee and its volunteers, particularly to its esteemed and inspiring leader, Twinkle Peterson, for perpetuating the tradition for yet another year under most trying circumstances. The Swedish American Patriotic League’s 2017 Board of Directors and Sveadal governors are also to be highly commended for meeting their responsibility in sponsoring and making possible yet another Swedish midsummer festival, lengthening this tradition.
This 123rd Swedish Midsummer celebration, is believed to be the oldest, continuously celebrated midsummer celebration produced by a single entity outside Sweden. It began as a result of San Francisco’s first of three world’s fairs, the Midwinter Exposition of 1894. The only theme that all Swedish immigrants — among them were temperance Swedes and religious ones who objected to dancing, among many other secular practices — could then agree upon was the significance of midsummer to all Swedes. Founded the next year in 1895, the Swedish American Patriotic League was an outgrowth of that fair’s Swedish committee, dedicated to producing an annual midsummer festival and to uniting and promoting Swedish culture among the Swedish organizations here. The tradition extends yet more deeply here: For this is the 158th annual celebration of a Swedish midsummer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The hope of all is: “Next year in Sveadal!”
By Ted Olsson

For more info on Swedish American Patriotic League, see