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updated: 6/15/2012 1:12 PM

Tradition stays alive at the 102nd Geneva Swedish Day

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  • Marguerite Karl sings the American and Swedish national anthems to kick off the opening ceremony at the 100th annual celebration of Swedish Day at Good Templar Park in Geneva.

    Marguerite Karl sings the American and Swedish national anthems to kick off the opening ceremony at the 100th annual celebration of Swedish Day at Good Templar Park in Geneva.
    Daily Herald File Photo

By Hailey Czarnecki

One of the longest-running festivals in the Fox Valley, Geneva's Swedish Midsummer Festival or Swedish Day, is back for its 102nd annual celebration.

The one-day fest, which takes place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 17, in Good Templar Park celebrates Swedish culture, history, cuisine and entertainment.

Since 1911, area residents of Swedish descent have reconnect with their roots at this event.

Pam Gustafson, who has helped the festival with public relations, said the fest started as a picnic party. The venue was near a train depot and made it easier for people from different towns to join the fun. Just one day every summer, Swedish families from all over would join together to celebrate "something cultural to call their own, " Gustafson said.

Soon, the event outgrew the venue and the leaders bought farms in Geneva to continue the tradition. Gustafson said 1,000 to 1,500 people show up each summer on the third Sunday in June.

"The event is older than Father's Day," she said, and because the event shares the same day, it brings in a lot of families. The day attracts families from many different nationalities from northern Europe.

A variety of entertainment is planned. The Swedish Gnomes will perform their comical act as this year's headliners. At 10 a.m., a nondenominational church service will be on the main stage. After that will be a Lutefisk Toss -- Swedes versus Norwegians. This competition will play off the long time rivalry of the two countries, and may the best tosser win.

A viewing of the famed Viking ship will be presented at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for an additional $3. The proceeds will go toward the restoration of the boat. Built in Norway, this boat sailed to the states years ago for a celebration of Columbus's discovery of America. It is now the last largest relic of the Columbian expedition, Gustafson said.

"It is something that is magnificent to see."

For another $5, people can join the cottage walk and see old Stugas. Each year, six Stugas are on display, Gustafson said, and this year is no different.

At noon, the famous Maypole raising and dancing will begin. The procession is one of the largest around. Leaders Linda and Paul Muhr and the Nordic Dancers of Chicago will start the event.

The opening ceremony will be at 1:05 p.m. on the main stage. It will feature guests and lead into the Swedish American Children's Choir performance at 1:15 p.m.

"No festival would be complete without an accordion player," Gustafson said, so Ernie Sandquist, Swedish accordionist, will perform at 3 p.m.

Swedish food will be served all day. Gustafson said everything from fried herring to Swedish pancakes to Swedish meatballs will be served. There will also be sloppy joes, or Yoes, hamburgers, hot dogs and almond tarts.

Many of the day's events are centered around children. A photo booth will allow anyone to dress in traditional Swedish clothing for a keepsake memory. A magic show, moon jump, crafts and other attractions will keep kids busy.

The festival is organized by the Swedish Day Committee of Independent Order of Svithiod. For details, visit

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