Annual NJ ScanFest on September 4.
Vasa Park at Budd Lake, NJ, rustic with its majestic trees and rolling hills, is home to the 27th annual ScanFest festival, the largest Scandinavian celebration in the northeast.
Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, September 4 2011 is the day of the largest Nordic festival on the East coast, ScanFest ’11. The festival is held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the NJ Vasa Park, 1 Wolfe Rd., Budd Lake NJ 07828, the NJ “Skylands” Region. For general information, e-mail Info@ScanFest.org, phone 610 417-1483, or visit the website: www.ScanFest.org
The event draws thousands of visitors every year, who come to enjoy a smörgåsbord of fun and a long list of entertainers. Watch demonstrators making lace, weave or even wooden toys – or browse the many Scandinavian arts and crafts venues.
Performances this year include Harald Haugaard & Helene Blum from Denmark, Kaivama’s Sara Pajunen & Jonathan Rundman from Minnesota, who untangle their ancestral Finnish music and create a modern blend of joyful, melodic music using a variety of instruments and some rarely seen on stage. Sure to bring down the house are Roger Hellevig’s recreation of Norwegian Immigrant Ole Oleson and two hilarious performances by the popular Magnus Mårtensson who mixes comedy and classical piano in the style of the late Victor Borge.
Norsewinds brings a mix of energetic Scandinavian & American original and traditional folk music, the classical soprano Ruthann Cunningham performs arias by Grieg & Sibelius and others and Eric Olsen’s Jazz Quartet adds an upbeat sound to the stage. The local SmörgåsBandet accordion group offers a continuous opportunity for dancing and listening.
From its very beginning, the 'Scanfest' has centered on the cultures of six countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, encouraging native dress among visitors (wearers admitted free) and authentic programs.
Enjoy watching traditional dancers, listen to Scandinavian songs and soloists, and the music of accordions and bands. With more than 40 different vendors, you’ll have every opportunity to inspect and buy such items as hand-knit sweaters, rosemaling items, jewelry, carved wood pieces, so many unusual craft!
Sample ethnic (and American) foods. Lines will as usual form early in front of the Swedish pancake and lingonberrry booth. Sample Norwegian ice cream cones, pea soup, blueberry soup, Swedish meat balls, fried potato flowers plus scads of pastries and beads... It would seem where the food is, this is where the true Scandinavian heart rest. For more info, see ScanFest '11
The ScanFest history, as told by Marian Sunnergren Bethlehem, PA:
Twenty-five years later... ScanFest:
How a Vasa Picnic Became a Festival!
Who could imagine that 25 years later a simple picnic would become the largest Scandinavian festival in the northeast? Who could guess that the two newest lodges in the Vasa Order New Jersey District would catapult an idea into reality?
For Viking Lodge, just formed in 1985, it began simply as a way to become acquainted with each other. With an offer to use the District’s Vasa Park in New Jersey on Labor Day weekend Sunday, it quickly became more than just a picnic.
Enthusiastically, the new Vikings decided on a festival instead. The idea was suggested by Nancy and Paul Thenstedt and it was to be similar to the one in Chicago they’d been involved with there. Draken agreed, the Park Board was enthusiastic, and the decision made to include all of the Lodges. Even better, as luck would have it, Rune Johansson, a former chef to King Gustav V of Sweden and the brother of Viking member Nils Johansson, agreed to prepare a couple of the King’s favorite dinners. What a coup !
Trials, tribulations, obstacles – there were many - but surprising and diverse talents popped up at every move: Negotiations with bands, entertainers, advertising, even a solution in case of weather. And there were disappointments. The Danish convention was set for the same Labor Day weekend and members from one of the Lodges had cruise plans. Another decision: If the Scandinavians couldn’t come, perhaps the community would. They invited everyone in a 300-mile radius!
In another lucky strike, Saab and Volvo signed in to display their cars and one of the vendors offered to conduct a free raffle for a three-wheeled 1985 Litestar car if they could have the space at no cost. This should appeal to everyone, not just Scandinavians. And it did!
Almost immediately the committee reported several food vendors had made a commitment with more planning to follow. Scandinavian foods, ethnic arts and crafts ... it appeared the two small lodges would swiftly fill the spaces. Excitement boomed. And it boomed even more when it was discovered that advance tickets to the King’s dinner had been oversold by 50%. Despite the initial panic, there was no way to turn back. They successfully served 550 dinners in the face of a besieging crowd!
Good fortune paved the way for growth
Good luck followed over and again. It happened that a Swedish folklore musical group would be in America at the time and would perform. Folkdance groups representing Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden eagerly agreed and a Mr/Ms Scandinavia baby contest for children under two was a winner. To complete the day, the well-known Walter Eriksson Orchestra provided three hours of Swedish music for dancing. But best of all, Sunday, September 1, dawned with sunshine with approximately 3,000 people attending. All of this for only $3.
Another boost happened two years later when the the District’s newest lodge, Dalahäst, joined the District and the Fest committee.
Gradually the festival grew in size and sophistication, offering a full day of entertainment, education and culture, a day in Scandinavia without the travel. Vasa, a rustic park nestled in rolling hills, could have been lifted from Norway or Sweden, Denmark or Finland.
So successful were the series of the festivals that followed, a question arose: How can the ScanFest committee outdo the programs of the years before? But they did. One time it was a replica of a Viking ship sailing on nearby Budd Lake as pre-fest publicity on and then moved to the park for exhibit during the ‘Fest. Another was the Stockholm Post Office big band. Still later it was the Swedish group “Frista He’ Sextetten”, a group of young men dressed in military uniforms from the 1800s and playing brass instruments from that era.
Today, still first rate, there are often surprises – such a few years ago when 100 university choir members from Finland asked if they could perform. They were welcomed. With success beyond initial expectations and with Viking left to carry on alone – the other two lodges withdrew – there was another problem. The festival had outgrown itself. It was decided to relinquish ScanFest to a newly formed non-profit corporation composed mostly of Vikings which was formed to promote the objectives of the Fest and which could involve all of the Nordic nations in ScanFest. In turn, ScanFest moved to nearby Waterloo Village, a picturesque New Jersey State park. Viking Lodge remained a key contributor as a vendor of Swedish pancakes and lingonberries.
For the new non-profit group, there were a different set of challenges. Years of exciting programs had to be equaled; money to operate had to be secured, fresh ideas and personnel found, problems tamed, plus with its non-profit status, the fledgling group recognized there was, well...no profit!
After ten more years, ScanFest, Inc. tried an indoor venue before returning to Vasa Park. The Scandinavians were outspoken, “We like it better outdoors. We can picnic, enjoy ourselves and meet friends.” “How about the weather? It can rain, be chilly or too hot.” ... “ but a festival should always be outside,” was the retort. “We’ll still come!” And they did.
Now, after 25 years, ScanFest has not only become a tradition, it’s more. The programs are still exciting, the authentic arts and crafts continue to delight, those in Nordic folkdress are admitted free, and there are demonstrations of Scandinavian crafts, historical re-enactors, a children’s spot – so many things that make this truly a Smörgåsbord of Fun. It remains a meeting place for those interested in the Scandinavian culture, a true milestone from a simple picnic at Vasa Park and still a wonderful place to meet old and new friends.
This year, as always, ScanFest invites vendors, clubs, organizations, and presenters of all types with a Nordic theme to come share the heritages at the 25th Anniversary ScanFest, still on the Sunday of (US) Labor Day weekend. This year, Sunday, September 6, 2009.
Lodges and all Nordic groups are invited to be food or craft vendors, to display exhibits, or just come to picnic and enjoy varied, continuous entertainment on four stages for adults and kids.
There’s info and forms on how to participate and advanced-sale discount ticket info at www.ScanFest.org.