Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks.
The annual highlight for families in southern and central California returns this April 18-19. Featuring food, music, crafts and more activities than ever before for all ages.
The organizers have eliminated the entrance fee for children 11 and younger and are holding the price at $5 for visitors 12 and older in face of the increased economic challenges people are facing.
Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the festival opens on Saturday, April 18, 2009 with a parade of flags, musicians and dignitaries. Visitors can explore Viking and Sami villages, participate in medieval games, and view exhibits on the Nobel and Kavli prizes.Activities for children include a soccer clinic, a Swedish-style croquet game, drama, storytelling and crafts ranging from carving butter knives to making flower head wreaths.
For more info, see www.callutheran.edu/scanfest
For Vibs Clausen, her annual visit to the Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is not just a way to reconnect with her homeland 5,000 miles away. It’s a trip back through time to the Denmark of her youth.
It’s a place to see rosemaling, lace making and all the other crafts that surrounded her as a child.
“You can see all these old arts from the Old Country,” said 73-year-old Clausen, who immigrated to the United States 50 years ago. “I think it’s great.
Clausen has two former employees of the private university to thank for the annual celebration. The late Amour Nelson, a Swedish-American archivist and English professor, and John Nordberg, a Norwegian American who served as Director of Development, conceived of the idea while playing golf 35 years ago. Nelson wanted to show off his collection of rare Scandinavian books, while Nordberg wanted to showcase the picturesque CLU campus. Both wanted to celebrate the school’s Scandinavian roots. The university’s founding in 1959 had been the dream of Scandinavian immigrants, and members of the Norwegian-American Pederson family had provided most of the land.
Originally dubbed Scandinavian Day, the inaugural event on Feb. 9, 1974, drew 600 people to the campus’ gymnasium to enjoy a simple display of Scandinavian art, rare books, food, music and dancing. Since then, the cultural celebration has morphed into a two-day Scandinavian Festival, which attracted more than 6,000 people on April 19 and 20 this year.
Having long outgrown the gymnasium, the festival now spreads throughout the campus, with a Nordic church service inside beautiful Samuelson Chapel, crafts and games scattered throughout scenic Kingsmen Park and vendors selling everything from wooden shoes to paintings along the campus’ main thoroughfare. Lectures, exhibits and demonstrations are held in several of the university’s classrooms.
The festival opens each year with a colorful parade of flags featuring Scandinavian dignitaries and Old World costumes and continues with music, dancing and presentations.
The smörgåsbord of activities highlights the Nordic cultures of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Children pick up Scandinavian Passports as they enter and then travel to craft booths representing each country to earn stamps. They learn paper cutting from Denmark, make friendship bracelets from Finland, create paper volcanoes from Iceland, practice the Norwegian craft of carding wool, and make Swedish Dala horse puppets. Girls and women weave vines, flowers and ribbons through crowns of twisted twigs to make head wreaths, perfect for the dances around the Maypole.
Clausen progressed from passive observer at the festival to active participant three years ago when she volunteered to demonstrate how to make lace. Her love for lace making dates back to her childhood in Denmark when she stumbled upon a book explaining the fundamentals of the intricate craft.
Since then, she has refined her skills by participating in workshops in Denmark and the United States.
The Camarillo, Calif., senior loves to share her passion for the centuries-old art with new generations. Each year at the Scandinavian Festival and weekly at the Scandinavian Center on the CLU campus, Clausen volunteers to teach students ranging in age from 5 to 85 to braid threads into lace. This year, such a steady stream of visitors flocked to her booth that she never had a chance to see the rest of the festival.
Across the footbridge from Clausen’s bobbin lace demonstration, children watched and participated in performances of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Visitors tested their skills at the ancient Viking game of Kubb, trying to knock over wooden blocks by tossing wooden sticks at them. Children and adults wandered through the deceptively long circular labyrinth created with stones.
Visitors also competed in a trivia game and pentathlon at the festival. A soccer clinic provided children with an opportunity to make their way through a basic skills course and take a penalty shot against a goalkeeper.
Other popular stops at the festival are the Sami Village and Viking Encampment. The Ravens of Odin, a historical reenactment society based in the nearby San Fernando Valley, set up a Viking village complete with furniture, house wares and weapons. Dressed in brightly colored tunics, aprons and scarves, the men, women and children worked and played as if they were in 10th century Scandinavia rather than 21st century California.
A steady stream of hungry visitors flocked to the festival’s food court. Vendors and volunteers with groups such as the Sons of Norway served heaps of aebleskivers, lefse and other Nordic delicacies.
The festival is a huge undertaking sponsored by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation with financial assistance from a few companies and foundations. More than 200 people volunteer to organize and run the event each year.
One of the hardest-working volunteers is Lana Lundin. The co-chair of the festival doesn’t have a drop of Scandinavian blood running through her veins, but she is passionately committed to preserving the culture’s traditions.
Lundin married a Swede and lived in his homeland for 23 years. She originally left it to her husband to teach their children about his Swedish heritage while she passed on American traditions. But when her son’s first-grade teacher got upset because he didn’t know literary characters like Pippi Longstalking and Emil, Lundin decided she needed to get involved in passing along her children’s Swedish culture and traditions as well.
Five years after moving to Camarillo, Calif., with her family in 2001, Lundin began volunteering with the festival. Now she is keeping the Scandinavian culture alive not just for her family, but for thousands of others who flock to the celebration each year from throughout California.
Lundin puts in hundreds of hours each year, but seeing families come together to enjoy Scandinavian traditions at the festival makes it worth the work. One time, she watched and listened as a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter made head wreaths. The grandmother started talking about how she remembered making head wreaths with her mother as child, something she hadn’t thought about for many years.
“That was like gold to me because that is the reason for having this festival,” Lundin said. “It just really is heartwarming.”
Written by Karin Grennan
For more information on the Scandinavian Festival, visit http://www.callutheran.edu/scancenter/ScanFest.php