A perspective of a Swedish summer custom from a non-Swedish born and bred Rockfordian
Rockford’s history is rich with many cultures, stories and celebrations. One celebration that I have been introduced to in the past two years is the Swedish celebration of the coming of summer called Midsommar. If you are new to Rockford, or have lived here your whole life, you start to meet many people around town with the last names of Anderson, Johnson, Nelson and any other Scandinavian surname your mind can fathom. That’s right, Rockford has a ton of Swedes. We have a Swedish American Hospital, Swedish import shop (Finials), Swedish owned Japanese Gardens (Anderson Japanese Gardens) and of course Swedish restaurants (Stockholm Inn). I currently have the honor of being the Executive Director of the Swedish Historical Society, an organization that has championed the Swedish cultural, traditions and history of its people in Rockford for over 80 years.
So, when it comes to Midsommar, it is serious business. In Sweden, Midsommar falls on the longest day of the year - the summer solstice. In Rockford, Midsommar Fest is on the third Saturday in June, or June 15th from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
The Midsommar celebration in Sweden and in Rockford include making flower crowns, dancing around the majstång (maypole), eating wonderful foods, drinking beer and dancing the night away. The Swedish Historical Society hosts vendors, a children’s craft area and live music from Svea Sonjer Harmony Club and Swingbilly RFD during the day. Delicious dishes like Swedish pancakes, meatballs and strawberries and ice cream will be served, and if you get there early enough, you may even be able to snag the Swedish bakery items up for sale. If you need to add some Swedish flair to your home or are looking for a perfect Swedish gift, swing by the MorMors’ Attic sale in the garden of the Erlander Home. MorMor is the Swedish word for mother’s mother and I am sure if you had a MorMor, she had some of this stuff laying around the house! With the help of Prairie Street Brewhouse’s lingonberry beer and a concert from ABBA Salute later that night at 7:00 PM at Veteran’s Memorial Hall, your Midsommar celebrations will be complete.
Midsommar preparations begin at the beginning of the year booking bands, lining up vendors and connecting with restaurants to feature Swedish dishes and family favorites. It takes two days to set up the giant tent and get the stage ready for the entertainment. The majstång is cut fresh each year from a local farm and covered with harvested wild greens and flowers. It takes hundreds of volunteer hours of planning, prepping and set up for this annual event to take place. And when the day arrives, its is magical. It allows you to embrace summer to its fullest with music, food and dancing like a frog with strangers - what more could you want?
Midsommar is not just for the Swedes. Whether you are Swedish, want to be, or just want to celebrate summer finally arriving, I hope to see you there with your flower crown and pancakes in hand!
Tack så mycket and glad Midsommar!
This blog was written by Alix Fox, Executive Director of the Swedish Historical Society in Rockford, Illinois.