Nisswa, MN—Ethnic and cultural education, folk music, dancing, good food and fun were significant ingredients during the 15th annual Nisswastämma in Minnesota during early June. Fiddle-builder and musician Paul Wilson is the director, who, together with a group of planners and benefactors, assembled a cast of the best Nordic folk musicians from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, plus about 150 members of the community of Scandinavian and Finnish musicians, singers and dancers from the upper midwest. Guests at the festival numbered close to two thousand.

The event began with a series of music and dance workshops on Friday, followed by an evening sampler concert, just to give a little taste of the music scheduled for the rest of the weekend. Dancing completed day one, which lead directly into the early hours of day two of the festival.
On Saturday morning, a musicians’ parade made its way through downtown Nisswa, giving the whole community an opportunity to hear some music and see colorfully costumed performers as they approached Pioneer Park and the Allspel. Then the assembled throng dispersed to five different stages for a day filled with 36 shows of Nordic folk music, dance, poetry, song and children’s activities.
Bands on tour from Norden were Ellinor Fritz and Leonor Palazzo, a rikspelman and five-string cello duo from Sweden, Jæ Sweevers, a Danish trio from Fanø, a small island on the west coast of Denmark. Peter Uhrbrand, Ole Mouritzen and Kirstine Uhrbrand performed on fiddle, accordion and keyboard, and Maar, a trio from Norway featuring Britt Pernille Frøholm on hardanger fiddle, Irene Tillung accordion, and Ellen Brekken string bass.


In addition to formal stage sets, there were smaller groups jamming under the soaring white pines. There were couples and children dancing on the outdoor dance floor, a showcase of nyckelharpa instruments, the decorating and raising of the midsummer pole, wood carving lessons and plenty of activities at the children’s tent to help the younger set learn more about the Nordic countries through crafts.
A traditional smörgåsbord provided the needed sustenance to energize all guests, volunteers and performers so they were ready to partake of the evening dancing, which once again went into the wee hours of the morning. Each group played for 30 minutes and provided music for favorite dances from Scandinavia.

The final day for musicians included a brunch on Sunday, during which time they jammed one last time and fit in one more Telespringar before farewells sent the various groups on their way. Jæ Sweevers headed for Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida and Oregon before returning home to Denmark. Ellinor & Leonor had some gigs in the upper midwest and New York. The groups from Minnesota had steady sets of gigs throughout June as they headed for the American Swedish Institute Midsommar, Gammelgården in Scandia, the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead, the Scandinavian Festival in Roseau, Svenskarnasdag in Minneapolis, Batttery Park in New York and a new international festival in Forest City, IA.
For more information or to see videos and images from 2014 and previous events, visit or go to

The festival in 2015 is slated for June 12-13. A new workshop, building from the success of the stämma classes, will be the Harald Haugaard’s West Denmark School of Fiddling, June 14-20, 2015. For information visit

By Valorie Arrowsmith
Photography by V. S. Arrowsmith.