The tradition of a summer street festival began in June 1965, after the neighborhood had been officially named “Andersonville” in a ceremony at which Mayor Richard J. Daley donned a Swedish blue and yellow apron for the occasion.

Swedetown, Chicago’s Swedish-immigrant heavy neighborhood at Chicago Avenue and Clark Street, was a bustling, prosperous area until the fire of 1871. After that, the Swedes went north a little to rebuild their homes and businesses, and soon Foster Avenue and Clark Street was built up as part of the Township of Lakeview. Eventually, Andersonville — perhaps named after the school it was founded in or for the Swedish farmer, John Anderson, who settled there around 1840 — was dedicated as a bustling Swedish immigrant neighborhood in the autumn of 1964. Less than a year later, the now historic first Midsommarfest was celebrated.

A Midsommarfest has been held annually since that first inauguration. Each year, nearly 50,000 people flock to the festival for three days of music, dancing, kids’ entertainment, delicious food and activities from all the cultures represented in the increasingly diverse neighborhood. In fact, the decidedly Swedish and Scandinavian focus in the neighborhood has historically been embraced by nearly all of Andersonville’s residents, including those who are not of Scandinavian origin.

Case in point: Last year when the ever-present, iconic water tower suffered irreversible ice damage that demanded its removal from the roof of the Swedish American Museum, it was members of the community — many of whom aren’t of Scandinavian origin — who asked for its return. The blue and yellow beacon had been a fixture, a landmark in the tight-knit neighborhood for nearly 90 years.

And so a campaign to bring it back (in some form) was begun, and continues now. To date, $100,000 has been raised. And with Midsommarfest 2015, a fun fundraiser project is being introduced for ages young and old: a water tower kit to purchase (a portion goes to the Water Tower Fund), assemble and decorate at home. People are encouraged to take a picture of their cardboard micro water tower and tag it on social media as #AvilleWaterTower. Don’t forget the water tower!

The Swedish American Museum, an annual sponsor of Midsommarfest, will host the festival’s opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 13 on their Clark Street stage, which will be closed to traffic for a several block stretch near Foster Avenue. Traditional dancing and singing around the majstång (maypole) will begin 15 minutes later. Museum Store items will be sold in a street tent, and free admission will be offered for the museum itself during regular hours.

Other food, ethnic music and dance performances can be enjoyed on various stages. And yes, ABBA lovers can enjoy their favorite Swedish band’s music on both Friday and Saturday evenings, as ABBA Salute will be on the Swedish Stage at Foster Avenue. Music by the Chicago Male Chorus, Children’s Choir, Nordic Folk Dancers and Spelmanslaget, among others, will provide a wonderful mix of Swedish and Swedish-American entertainment throughout the weekend.


Friday, June 12, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday, June 14, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.