Nisswa, Minnesota—This year, the 14th annual folk music festival, on June 7-8, was extra memorable. Performing were Mette Jensen and Kristian Bugge, Denmark’s 2012 Danish “Grammy” winners for folk band and folk recording. Harald Haugaard, 12-time Danish Music Award winner and Helene Blum, the first singer to graduate from the Carl Nielsen Academy with a folk music emphasis performed before rejoining their band on their west coast tour. The Polka Chicks from Finland, graduates of the Helsinki Pop and Jazz Conservatory and the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department returned for a second visit this year. Marie Skavnes, winner of the solo class in fiddling at Landsfestivalen, a national folk festival in Norway, and Lars Berg, whose band won the ensemble division at Titanofestivalen in 2005, made their first visit to Nisswa from Norway. Swedish Riksspelman Olof Göthlin and Ben Teitelbaum, the first American to earn a performance degree in Swedish nyckelharpa, and who recently completed his PhD in ethnomusicology, performed in their group Bjärv.
The music energized five stages. Besides these groups touring from the Nordic countries, there were 29 other folk ensembles from the upper midwest, as well as many individuals who jammed in impromptu and evolving sessions under the tall white pine trees at Pioneer Park in downtown Nisswa.

Snoa, Hambo, Tango...
The dance barn and the dance floor filled with people who could be seen doing the Snoa, Hambo, Telespringar, Hoppsa, Finnish Tango and Danish round dances. The children’s tent and wood carving areas drew throngs of participants of all ages. The Majstång procession, raising, and song games attracted more than 150 observers and participants.
Not only were there activities in the park, but the stämma also hosted a day of workshops, which featured Danish singing, Gammaldans and Bygdedans lessons, and fiddle and nyckelharpa workshops. An evening Gala Sampler Concert preceded the festival, and this year there was standing room only in the 600-seat auditorium. More than one performance received a standing ovation, and the most enthusiastic audience response was given to the Ripple River Fiddlers, a 70-strong group of area children and youth who dazzled the crowd with their prowess and energy.
Two evening dances featured 13 performing groups, each doing a 30-minute set, interspersed by 15 acoustic groups while the stage was reset for the next band, so that the dancing was non-stop throughout the night. A traditional smörgåsbord provided sustenance to the guests and performers, and dozens of Nisswa-area host families welcomed performing groups into their homes for the few hours of sleep needed to be ready for the next day.
The festival often serves as a starting point for a North American tour, which was the case for Kaivama, a Finnish-American duo. They began a two-week tour with the Polka Chicks and complete their quartet status at FinnFest-USA. Jensen and Bugge, Haugaard and Blum, and Bjärv were scheduled to appear at several other Scandinavian festivals, as were numerous other participating musicians, who hop on the “June midsommar train” and perform several times a week until the end of the month.

It's all in the planning
Nisswastämmam benefits the Anderson Family Foundation and the Mills Family Foundation through many significant sponsors that make the festival possible. Primary sponsors are the ASI Spelmanslag, Carl Boberg, Sons of Norway Sagatun Lodge, Martin’s Sports Shop, Norden Folk and Ingebretsens. Sponsors are the Nisswa Area Historical Society, John and Janet Erickson, Erickson Law Offices, BlackRidge Banks and Nisswa Sanitation. Special thanks go to Don and Mary Anne Bennett, Nisswa Tax Service, Fyle’s Portables, the planning committee and volunteers.
One final jam occurred on Sunday at the performer’s brunch, where food, delicious to the eye and the palate, was served by volunteers dressed in Norwegian bunads at the Gull Lake Yacht Club. There performers brought out their fiddles and button box accordions one final time to bid the stämma farvel adjö and näkemiin until they gather again next year on June 6-7, 2014.
For more information, visit the stämma’s Facebook page or website to see examples of all of the color, energy, and performances posted by many photographers and participants.