People drifted into Sveadal on Friday afternoon to claim choice parking spots for their RVs. Those with tents set up camp in the lower campgrounds beside Uvas Creek. These fortunate few were able to celebrate Midsummer in the Swedish way — dinner with family and a few friends on the eve of the summer solstice. Volunteers had set up a dozen vendors’ tents, reserved two dozen picnic tables, built the stage and grounded the maypole. The parking lot had already been raked and lined for vehicles.
Early the next morning as the vendors set up shop, Ken Weissenborn and Ted Olsson for the 30th year began decorating the horizontal maypole with boughs trimmed from nearby trees. By 10 a.m. there was already a long line waiting at the admissions desk. By day’s end almost 1,500 people had arrived, each receiving copies of Nordstjernan and the day’s printed program of activities and greetings.
The cloud cover allowed it to be a pleasantly warm day, though not hot. Families with children arrived and by 11 a.m. the kids began flowering the maypole and rings. The morning featured fika at the Elva Kaffe, tours of the Clubhouse, sketching by Flo Spanier for payment toward the Clubhouse’s new deck, and strolling minstrels Mark Wallstrom and Jennie Perform, instilling the proper ambience.

Musicians tune up, hopping frogs and smörgåsbord
Jan and Kiki Nordin and their musicians were in place and tuned up when at high noon, dozens of men hoisted the towering maypole upright. That was the sign for all to join in the ring dances as Karin Forsell taught and led the ageless throng in the familiar dances sung by Jan. Of course hundreds of “hopping green frogs” surrounded the pole and the chores of the week were relived in dance. An hour later people were discovering sales and specialty items throughout the marknad and everybody had built up a hearty appetite.
The crowd returned to their blanket picnic sites and clubs to their reserved tables in the upper picnic grounds. Members shared their potluck picnic treasures and greetings. The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce (SACC-SF/SV) had reserved all nine picnic tables on the tiered patio of the lower dance floor. In a gesture of tremendous hospitality SACC invited members and guests alike (especially those inquiring about joining) to their smörgåsbord. Chairwoman Charlotte Danielsson and her family had cleaned out IKEA of salmon, herring, sausages, lingonberry preserves and cold cuts together with heaping salads and delicious cookies. The SACC interns (William Appelgren, Sofia Englund with her companion Josh the photographer, Tilda Jönsson, and Sandra Karlehag) had created a remarkable longbord by aligning all the tables end to end, covering them with white cloths, and festooning them with vased flowers and SACC literature.

Afternoon activities
For those who could recover after fulfilling their appetites, the afternoon held other opportunities in addition to swimming, tennis, sunbathing, horseshoes or basketball. Some kids played kubb on the maypole lawn. Those still hungry found BBQ snacks and beverages at the Midsummer Café. And Greg Beroza (filling in for Fred Bianucci) led several dozen people on a short but informative hike around Sveadal, explaining the natural and cultural history of this spot.

Prelude to the traditional procession
By 4 p.m. most of the crowd had reserved seats or positioned their blankets around the Midsummer stage and were enjoying the musical prelude presented by TC Brewitz, who serenaded them with familiar or personal Swedish melodies, as she had in years past. This quieted the audience in anticipation of the procession beginning the program. As always the familiar Swedish strains of the fiddlers wafting from behind the Clubhouse announced the procession. The parade marshalls, Anne Marie Van Horn and Louise Vogelsberg, chosen for their years of devoted service, were carried before the U.S. and Sweden flags. Behind these were all the program officials and those attired in Swedish costumes, followed by the Queen’s Court: the Maids of Honor, the escorted Svea and Columbia, and the Midsummer Queen with honored little girls as her train bearers and her very young crown bearer.
When it had encircled the audience, snapping many photos, the procession marched down the central aisle and mounted the stage. There President Ryan Massey welcomed all to this 120th re-enactment of the Swedish-American Patriotic League’s (SAPL) Swedish Midsummer festival. With CalFire trucks lining the roadway, he reminded all of the dangerous fire conditions resulting from California’s long drought and asked everyone for extreme caution. Then he presented Midsummer Committee chairwoman, Daria (Twinkle) Peterson, with a bouquet as the audience heartily applauded in appreciation.

A tradition begun in 1894
For those new to this celebration, he explained how and why this formal occasion differs from the simple, informal Swedish one. Begun for the first of San Francisco’s three world’s fairs in 1894, the Swedes then came together from throughout the Bay Area to celebrate one of their most cherished secular traditions and to share it with other Americans. Each of the clubs participating could have one maiden in the court; in proud recognition of their Swedish ancestry and U.S. citizenship, they chose one woman to represent each country, and then another to preside over the spirit of the occasion. To this day, producing this annual Midsummer celebration is the primary responsibility of the SAPL president.

Fourth generation members rule
Several things were remarkable about this trio of beautiful reigning women. After years, this was the first time all three young women were fourth generation Sveadal members, having grown up here and whose immigrant great-grandparents were active in local Swedish and Sveadal affairs. Each had served in the court for years, and following her parents’ and grandparents’ example, had now become more exalted. The Queen’s mother, when she was Queen, had honored the Massey children as her crown- and train-bearers. Now the daughter in turn was served by Massey grandchildren (all cousins) — Ari Massey as crown bearer, Abbie Massey and Evie Decker as train bearers. Queen Linnea Spencer was beautiful; Columbia, Alyssa Gustafson, was statuesque with a stunning speech; Kristy Gustafson (not related) as Svea was lovely and lively. All were gifted and each spoke of the significance of this moment from their personal, historical and cultural perspectives.
As is the case with many multigenerational Americans of Swedish descent, although they do not speak Swedish, and may not be current on Swedish affairs, they cherish the Swedish traditions handed down to them by their ancestors and continue to celebrate them as an intergenerational act of affection. Each spoke of the unique combination of people and place that is Sveadal, for all who grow up here or have joined the community through intermarriage, through celebrating Midsummers here, or from discovering an affinity to a unique bicultural community.

2014 Beroza Laureates
Ted Olsson introduced the 2014 Beroza Laureates. As has happened before, there was a tie: The senior essayist was Marylin Crawford; the youth, Stella Kaval. Marylin had grown up in northern California only about 50 miles away. Head of the Counseling Department at San Jose City College, she recalled her youth celebrating Midsummer with her family and church. When she recently discovered Sveadal’s Midsummer she felt right at home, for both are American adaptations of Swedish family legacies. Stella’s essay was precocious, for she wrote it before graduating from elementary school. Yet by her vivid details and the narrative arc of her memoir, she too passes on this legacy to others.

What can the U.S. learn from Sweden?
Next year’s Beroza essay theme is, “What can the U.S. learn about universal healthcare/insurance from Sweden?” All information about the contest is at: > Midsummer.
Consul General Barbro Osher, in conveying the personal good wishes of the royal family and government, also noted how enjoyable and remarkable it is to have continued this annual celebration for this length of time. As in the case of Sveadal itself, this longevity is due to the tradition being embraced and furthered by many who are not Swedish by birth. It reminds one of the immigration which has strengthened both countries.
Following the introduction of the Maids of Honor, some representing clubs more than a century old — naming the constituent organizations of the League as well as their dates and place of founding — the Midsummer Court followed by all the audience recessed to the maypole. Following the Queen and Court’s Dance, everybody joined in for another hour of ring dances about the maypole.
One last shopping binge occurred before the vendors folded their tents. A leisurely dinner with family and friends settled the day, either on one’s blanket spread across the lawns, at the picnic tables or camping facilities, or, for the lucky 200 who bought their tickets and enjoyed Ginny Nelson’s delicious cooked Swedish dinner, inside the Clubhouse or outside on the attached upper dance floor.

Dancing under the stars
The evening concluded with dancing the night away under the stars and beneath the towering redwoods at the Lower Dance Floor. With a third of each hour devoted to Swedish folk dances and the rest to contemporary American ones, the floor was always crowded. The bar and bakery did a brisk business. But for an emergency, which resolved itself, the night was spent with old friends and new. Everyone spoke Swedish that night — at least "skål" and "Glad Midsommar." And many a girl kept her Midsummer garland beneath her pillow to remember that night and to dream of many future ones.

By Ted Olsson
Sveadal, June, 2014