Northwestern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York are home to generations of Swedish families. Those with Viking blood respect and cherish all things Scandinavian. We have colorful wooden Dala horses on our bookshelves and a sky blue and yellow Swedish flag flying somewhere in or on the house. We frequent the Ecklof Bakery and remember holiday dinners of korv, lutfisk and pickled herring as well as other delights like pepparkakor and almond tarts.
It’s fitting that in the heart of summer, area residents and visitors are treated to the annual Scandinavian Folk Festival. The festival honors and preserves the Nordic heritage of those who settled this area in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The headline music at this year’s festival is a dance band from Sweden, named Donnez. Donnez has had three CDs in the top 10 in Sweden. This performance will be the American debut for this group of five talented musicians, coming to Jamestown — just for the festival — before they return to Sweden for 30 more performances scheduled this summer. We appreciate that they chose our 15th Annual Festival for their American premier.

Entertainment, vendors, food and children's activities
This year’s festival, which will be at Jamestown's Gerry Rodeo Grounds on July 15-17, includes a variety of educational and whimsical events with vendors, lectures, Scandinavian foods of all kinds, and a traditional Midsummer celebration at 11 a.m. on Saturday that opens with a parade of Scandinavian flags, festival musicians and folk dancers. Celebrants may join in to dance around the Maypole after it is raised.
This year’s festival is rich with entertainment, a petting zoo will offer children an opportunity to pet and learn about pygmy goats, rabbits, lambs and ducks, and everyone can see the 40-foot-long Leif Erickson Viking Ship replica, which will sail Chautauqua Lake with six crew members on Friday before arriving at the festival grounds. The crew will answer questions about Viking ships and Viking history. Visitors can step aboard the ship and see what travel in such a vessel was like for the bold and adventurous Vikings.
A new feature at the festival is the Finnish Wife Carrying Contest. Culturally speaking, it relates to a Viking idea of being strong and vigorous enough to carry one’s wife and all the responsibilities of life. According to festival coordinator Don Sandy, the contest is based on a 19th century Finnish legend "Ronkainen the Robber" whose men had to prove their worth by completing a difficult course carrying something heavy on their backs. Other contests will include the Kubb tournament, pepparkakor cookie baking and dance routines.


Hands-on workshops and demonstrations
In the Culture Tent are exhibits, demonstrations and workshops. Visitors can observe chip carving, Swedish weaving, rosemaling, knitting and spinning. (During the winter months from October to May, the Scandinavian Studies Program at Jamestown Community College conducts a number of similar workshops that are free and open to the public on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon.)
The Scandinavian Studies Program passes along traditions from generation to generation and shares valuable cultural and historical information. The 2016 Scandinavian Folk Festival Lecture Series features 14 lectures ranging in topics from a discussion about Isak Dinesen to language lessons. The lecture series contributes to preserving the rich Scandinavian heritage by offering opportunities to learn about tracing lineage, folk costumes and contributions to world art and literature.
Performances in addition to Donnez include Svenska Spelmän and the Jamestown municipal band with a concert of Scandinavian compositions, the Toronto Swedish Folkdancers and the local Thule Lodge Swedish adult and children folk dancers. Dancers dress in traditional folk costumes and offer skilled performances that honor Swedish dance and music traditions. New to the festival this year is Sini and Anita, a Finnish duo that performs Scandinavian songs and plays accordion and fiddle.

The festival will be open for fun and enjoyment Friday, July 15 at 1 -10 p.m., Saturday, July 16 at 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Sunday, July 17 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Parking is free and the ticket prices are modest. The 15th Anniversary Special Gate prices will be $5 for Friday and Saturday and $1 on Sunday, and if you wear a Scandinavian outfit, you will be admitted free of charge. Children under 12 are admitted free.
There are no additional charges for any events.

Maps and contact information can be found online: Interested in volunteering? Contact Gale Svenson at 716-753-6319.
More information at or on Facebook / Scandinavian Jamestown