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posted: 6/17/2013 12:53 PM

Geneva Swedish Days: continuing the family tradition

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  • Laura Rush and her father ride the merry-go-round at Geneva Swedish Days in 1970. Rush, who works at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, has vivid memories of going to the festival as a child. She said she hopes everyone will share that excitement at this year's 64th annual Swedish Days.

      Laura Rush and her father ride the merry-go-round at Geneva Swedish Days in 1970. Rush, who works at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, has vivid memories of going to the festival as a child. She said she hopes everyone will share that excitement at this year's 64th annual Swedish Days.
    Courtesy of Laura Bush

  • Lennart Jonsson owns The Gift Box, an entirely Swedish store at 310 W. State St., Geneva. Jonsson, a first generation immigrant from Sweden and a Swedish icon in Geneva, will be marshaling this year's parade at the 64th annual Swedish Days.

      Lennart Jonsson owns The Gift Box, an entirely Swedish store at 310 W. State St., Geneva. Jonsson, a first generation immigrant from Sweden and a Swedish icon in Geneva, will be marshaling this year's parade at the 64th annual Swedish Days.
    Courtesy of Geneva Chamber of Commerce

  • Four-year-old Cole Steben of Geneva gets a bird's-eye view of Swedish Days at last year's festival.

       Four-year-old Cole Steben of Geneva gets a bird's-eye view of Swedish Days at last year's festival.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2012

  • Local Boy Scouts and Pack Leaders hold up a large American flag near the front of the Swedish Days' 63rd annual parade in Geneva.

      Local Boy Scouts and Pack Leaders hold up a large American flag near the front of the Swedish Days' 63rd annual parade in Geneva.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Dontre McClose, 4, of Geneva smiles his way along Third Street during the kids parade at Swedish Days in Geneva. For a full schedule of events, see Page 2.

       Dontre McClose, 4, of Geneva smiles his way along Third Street during the kids parade at Swedish Days in Geneva. For a full schedule of events, see Page 2.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2011

  • Explore Swedish culture at Sweden Vast on Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23.

      Explore Swedish culture at Sweden Vast on Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23.
    Courtesy of Geneva Chamber of Commerce

  • The Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago have been entertaining audiences since 1973. See them perform at Sweden Vast at Geneva's Swedish Days.

      The Nordic Folk Dancers of Chicago have been entertaining audiences since 1973. See them perform at Sweden Vast at Geneva's Swedish Days.
    Courtesy of Geneva Chamber of Commerce

  • Five-year-old Eric Stoffels of Batavia gets some help from his mom Diocelina to put the finishing touches on his tool box at the Creation Station during last year's Swedish Days festival.

       Five-year-old Eric Stoffels of Batavia gets some help from his mom Diocelina to put the finishing touches on his tool box at the Creation Station during last year's Swedish Days festival.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2012

 
By Jennifer Tranmer
jtranmer@dailyherald.com

Laura Rush can't remember a single year that she hasn't made it down for at least one day to Geneva's Swedish Days.

The Geneva native even remembers bringing her 3-month-old daughter to the festival, just to feel the same rush of excitement she feels every year.

"I knew summer was here when Swedish Days started," Rush recalled from her childhood.

The 64th annual six-day festival runs Tuesday, June 18 through Sunday, June 23. The festival goes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with some events starting earlier or running late. Sunday kicks off at 7 a.m. with a Swedish breakfast and runs until 8 p.m.

Rush remembers the diversity of activities the festival offered each year -- going down with her parents and friends to the courthouse lawn and dancing the night away at the Central Entertainment Stage, shopping in the stores during their extended hours for moonlight madness, and going to the carnival.

But she marching in the parade remains one of her most thrilling memories.

The two-and-a-half-hour parade winds through downtown, and each year a new parade marshal is selected. This year's marshal offers an exciting twist: first generation Swedish immigrant Lennart Jonsson, owner of the entirely Swedish store The Gift Box, will be leading this year's parade.

Jonsson was selected to marshal the parade because, "he is Geneva," said Jane Gaffney of St. Charles, manager of The Gift Box.

Gaffney said Jonsson has been extensively involved with anything Swedish-related in the town.

"They (the people of Geneva) go through him," she said, adding that people have gone to him to help book their trips to Sweden after the travel agency closed.

The Sunday parade is one of many traditions in the festival the chamber keeps because it just works, said Rush. But, some things don't work, she added, so it's important to come up with new ideas, like Sweden Vast.

Last year, Sweden Vast proved to be a successful reinvigoration of Swedish culture for the festival, offering an entire tent of Swedish foods, music and crafts, so the chamber is expanding it this year, including having a Skype session with people in Sweden.

Rush said she hopes that with everything the tent has to offer, people will leave knowing more about Swedish culture, and they will have a fuller understanding of what it would be like to go to Sweden.

Starting 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, a Viking will welcome fairgoers to the tent on North Fourth Street and State Street.

Although the Sweden Vast tent is only open on the weekend, the fun and diversity of activities will last all week, assured Jean Gaines, president of the chamber.

"It's our job to create fun and to bring business into downtown," she said.

Indeed, the festival benefits downtown businesses, said Martha Sanchez, a Geneva native now living in Elburn who manages State Street Jewelers.

"Anytime they're bringing thousands of people into town, it gives you the opportunity to showcase your business," she said.

Sanchez, who has worked at the jewelry store for 37 years, remembers going to the festival as a child, selling tickets at the booths when she was a Girl Scout and going to the carnival.

She said that working on State Street allows her to go to the festival every day, to try different foods from each of the booths.

Rush said the chamber is proud to have only nonprofit food vendors at the festival. All proceeds from the food go to different charities. So, when you buy a bratwurst or a steak sandwich, you know that your money is going to pay for a scholarship for a high school student, or to stock a local food pantry, she said.

No matter how the festival changes, Rush said the chamber will continue to offer traditional favorites and new ideas, and plenty of fodder for summer memories.

• If you're on the move, this year the chamber has a smartphone app MyFest; you can look up events for Geneva Swedish Days.

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