Lindsborg, Kansas calls itself Little Sweden USA. That's no particular surprise to visitors who notice freshly made ostkaka on a menu or spot the city's Dala horse logo on police cruiser doors.
Yet it's not just menu options or a logo that lend distinction to Lindsborg. The town, population 3,500, still carries on the big dreams of those bold souls who made new lives on the American prairie like it did in 1869 when a small group of Swedish immigrants founded it.
After all the years and generations, Lindsborg still thinks like its Swedish forebearers.
"We try to look to the future, as did the founders," said Mayor Judy Neuschafer. "More important, we try to use everyday, hands-on creativity to make the ordinary rise to the extraordinary—especially a conversation with a visitor. That's why people love coming here."
Anyone can tap into the swirling color of Swedish-Americana during Lindsborg's special events year-round, especially its Midsummer Festival during the third weekend in June and the Lucia Festival, the second weekend in December. And the Wild Dala Horses of Lindsborg, a herd of 30 large pop-art creations, are on display year-round.
But the triple crown of Lindsborg's Swedish heritage is its biennial tribute to the pioneers, called Svensk Hyllningsfest—literally translated, it's the "Swedish honoring festival." It's always the second weekend of October in odd numbered years.
Thus, Lindsborg's next Svensk Hyllningsfest is Friday, Oct. 7, and Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. In fact, it will be the 70th anniversary of the first festival in 1941.
For many months the preparatory buzz for Lindsborg's 2011 Hyllningsfest has been ongoing; volunteers have been making arrangements for the Swedish smörgåsbord, scheduling music and dancing, booking Swedish entertainment, lining up the parade, and finding Swedish arts and crafts.
Pre-Hyllningsfest activity is now starting to peak. Even more residents are swinging into action to play their up-close-and-personal roles. They rehearse performances and refresh costumes. They repaint the huge dancing circle in the middle of town. They bake and critically eye their guest rooms. This is a festival of the heart: hand-made and personal every time. It a festival of collaboration: Descendants of Lindsborg's founders work alongside non-Swedish-descended residents in a coming together, the truest celebration of small-town community.
"That's why even those who are 'becoming Swedish' for the first time seem comfortable at Svensk Hyllningfest," said Mayor Neuschafer. "The festival is so much a part of us, and we are happy to share it."
That personal touch is front and center at Hyllningsfest’s celebration of Swedish comfort food, its smorgasbord on Friday evening. Approximately 125 volunteers cook and assemble the long table of treats ranging from pickled herring and meatballs to the freshest tea ring pastries. During the day, festival street food includes the popular “Viking on a Stick.”
Throughout the weekend, some of the best of America’s Scandinavian folk music and dance is on display, home-grown in Lindsborg. The nationally recognized Lindsborg Swedish Folk Dancers perform regularly during the festival. The group’s high-energy folk dancing, costumed to a regional tee, has engaged audiences from Disneyland and Wolf Trap to Swedish cities and towns. Also featured during the festival is the widely traveled adult folk dance group, Lindsborg Folkdanslag.
To the continuing delight of audiences (especially doting families and friends), more than 400 costumed Lindsborg students perform traditional ring dances and games throughout the festival. These performances, practiced by the children during school, always trigger waves of bobbing cameras and big smiles.
Hyllningsfest’s Saturday evening entertainment will feature the folk trio named Bjärv in its contemporary interpretation of traditional Scandinavian music. Bjärv’s members offer world-class fiddling, smooth three-part harmonies and a youthful improvisational approach in what should be a rollicking session.
On Friday night, be immersed in the lush sounds of the Smoky Valley Men’s Chorus. And gather downtown on Saturday night for a country/pop music street dance powered by the locally popular band Shotgun Sons.
Hyllningsfest melds its creative streak with Lindsborg’s heritage and dry sense of humor during the Saturday morning parade on Main Street. Floats, cars and other rolling stock get the full parade treatment. Who knows? You may even see the, ahem, World-Famous, Award-Winning Lindsborg Wild Dala Drill Team.
Art and craft? Abundant, found in tents of craftspeople visiting for the festival’s run to the many institutional and commercial studios and galleries that are part of Lindsborg’s creative community. In the footsteps of Swedish-born Post Impressionist Birger Sandzen, a cadre of oil painters, watercolorists, wood carvers, metal sculptors and other artists have made their homes in Lindsborg. If you want to take home a one-of-a kind piece (in addition to your snapshots and memories, of course), opportunities will be available. If you wish to take home a bit of Swedish or Lindsborg craft and food, the community is at the ready.
All details are at www.svenskhyllningsfest.org; further guidance is available through Lindsborg’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.visitlindssborg.com.
In the meantime, Lindsborg residents of every age will continue to prepare for its festival of the heart, its coming together time, Svensk Hyllningsfest 2011.