GERRY – A weekend of traditional family-oriented entertainment awaits area residents at the annual Scandinavian Folk Festival.
The 12th annual Scandinavian Folk Festival will be held from July 19-21 at the Gerry Rodeo grounds, 4351 Route 60 in Gerry. The event will feature a wide variety of cultural celebratory activities based on traditional and contemporary Scandinavian practices.
According to Don Sandy, festival coordinator, the event encourages guests to “Behold Scandinavia” by listening to Scandinavian music, watching folk dancers, eating Swedish food, observing Swedish crafters and much more.
“Our effort is to provide an environment where people can experience the culture in many different ways,” said Sandy.
Live music highlights for this year include: Paul Dahlin and fiddlers from the American Swedish Institute of Minneapolis, Minn.; a Swedish concert by the Jamestown Municipal Band; the local Svenska Spelman band; the Viking Chorus, the Vasa Voices chorus and the Jamestown Spelman band.
“At the Scandinavian Folk Festival we’ve had great entertainment in the past and that tradition is continuing again this year,” said Sandy. “Highlighting our entertainment is Paul Dahlin and his group of fiddlers. They are in my mind the most authentic Swedish fiddle group in the United States and we’re proud to be able to bring them back to the Scandinavian Folk Festival. They were here three years ago, and were very popular at that time. They bring a lot of dynamic energy, and their expertise of the traditional sound of Sweden is what makes them authentic. It’s an exciting presentation that they offer.”
The local Svenska Spelman band, of which Sandy is a member, consists of accordian, guitar, bass, fiddle, nyckelharpa and banjo. According to Sandy, the group performs a wide variety of Scandinavian tunes in a Gammeldans style of music.
“It’s the music of our ancestors when they got together on Saturday night for barn dances,” said Sandy. “It also has a local history because in the early 1900s there was a great deal of Swedish dance music going on in our community.”
Both acts are instrumental groups, and may only feature a vocalist as a special guest. However, the Viking Chorus and the Vasa Voices chorus will provide a vocal performances.
In addition to the musical performers, the festival will feature a variety of dancers and dancing opportunities. A Swedish folk dance team from Toronto will perform, as well as an adult team and child team from the Thule Lodge.
“Swedish folk dancing is traditional in various parts of Sweden and communities would have their own costumes and way of doing certain dances,” said Sandy. “We’re pleased to be able to have the Swedish folk dance team from Toronto because they are very skilled and exemplify many of the traditional patterns. They will also participate in our Saturday morning midsummer pole and community ring dance, as well as offer social dance instruction.”
Several lectures will also be held in the lecture hall throughout the weekend. Lecturers will discuss a variety of topics, ranging from early Swedish colonies, being a Norwegian child raised in an orphanage in Nazi Germany, the life of Hans Christian Andersen, the role of Swedes in the Civil War, berry lore including lingonberries and others.
“In the building at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds, which is air conditioned, we will have our feature lectures,” said Sandy. “Peter Brenner, who is from New England, was born from a Norwegian mother in World War II. But, at the time the Nazi regime in Germany was interested in creating this Arian race, and the Nordic physique fit into the mold of what they considered to be the Germanic race. So they took children away from Norwegian families and putting them in orphanages in Germany to raise the perfect race. So, the first years of his life was in this Nazi orphanage, but he eventually became adopted by an American family after the war. He was able to contact his Norwegian mother, who also ended up in the United States. He has written a book about his experience, and he will come to talk about that.”
Other lectures include: Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jewish people in Hungary during World War II; Swedish folk costumes and Swedish castles.
The festival includes an area specifically designated for children and families to enjoy activities together. According to Sandy, the Hans Christian Andersen puppet show by a group from Virginia will be a must-see event. On Friday, July 19, at 1 p.m. a special free performance will be held for area children.
“There is a full schedule of storytelling, activities and crafts for families to enjoy,” said Sandy. “There are Swedish game tournaments and there are puppet shows, which are popular with both kids and adults. Puppets are not just a children’s thing, I think it’s a way to convey a story that appeals to people of all ages.”
The festival will also feature an actor from California who will portray Hans Christian Andersen and a Swedish comedian.
Ticket prices are as follows: Friday, July 19, $7 or $5 after 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 20, $8 or $5 after 7 p.m.; and Sunday, July 21, $4. Children 16 and younger are free. Admission includes all events, entertainment and exhibits, with the exception of a small fee for workshop materials.
For more information visit www.scandinavianjamestown.org or search for “Scandinavian Folk Festival” on Facebook.