The 16th annual Nisswastämma is now an experience to be relived in dreams. Held annually on the second weekend in June in north central Minnesota, it uses as its model the traditional stämmor in Sweden. The festival is filled with workshops, concerts, dancing, children’s activities, a musician’s parade, a midsummer pole, and it's rich in colorful folk costumes.
The 2015 event featured more than 150 musicians from the Nordic countries and from the upper midwest. Harald Haugaard of Denmark and Antti Järvelä of Finland departed to lead the first annual fiddle camp at the West Denmark Community near Luck, Wisconsin. Josefina Paulson and Jonas Åkerlund had spent the previous week exchanging tunes and techniques with the members of the Twin Cities Nyckelharpalag. Sindre Fotland and Kristoffer Kleiveland came from a small village in Norway, where they said they grew up 500 meters apart and have played button-box accordion since they were 6 and 8 years old; Kleiveland was the 2013 winner of the Norwegian competition in this instrument. Making a return journey from Sweden was VikesKalles Kapell from Rättvik.

In Minnesota this event marks the beginning of the Nordic celebration season, with many midsummer events around the state. From Duluth to Minneapolis to Roseau, Bemidji, Scandia and Mora, some festivals are focused on a particular Nordic tradition, such as the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival, which features Finland and the Sami this year.
Other events to look for include any number of Swedish concerts performed by visiting musicians, such as the Old Town Gospel Choir from Luleå, Sweden, and the Cloudberries from Minnesota.
The Icelanders celebrate a national day with a women’s run, and many people in the Danish community travel great distances to partake in the annual family camps in the Grundtvigian tradition in Luck, WI and Tyler, MN.
Norway House celebrated its grand opening in mid-June. Its building, the colors of the Norwegian flag, sits adjacent to Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis. And a significant and historical event also came together this year on the last Sunday in June at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, joining the two long-standing annual celebrations of Norway Day and Svenskarnasdag.


At Nisswa all the musicians who perform and travel as part of their lives have the opportunity to “go home to mother and get their bottle filled” as the English say. They give and receive energy through the exchange of music and by practicing their skills in bygdedans and gammaldans. After Nisswastämman, they are ready to spread out over the upper midwest in many small towns and large cities to help uphold the traditions of Nordic heritage at festivals, workshops, camps and events. Nisswastämman cheers them, upholds them, invigorates them and helps to re-set the heritage compass. Now musicians and guests alike can go on their cultural exploration journey for another year.
Dates for 2016 are June 10 and 11. For more information visit

Valorie Arrowsmith