May 23, 2018
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Valkommen: New Sweden revels in Midsommar

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — Although the sky opened up about an hour before the ceremony and heavy rain and cracking thunder forced the event inside, inclement weather didn’t stop approximately 70 revelers from flocking to the New Sweden School for the final day of the 140th Midsommar Festival.

The traditional fete marks the end of winter and the beginning of summer. A host of events is held in New Sweden and surrounding communities to celebrate the longest day of the year.

Inside the school, residents and visitors gathered to hear traditional music and watch a performance by the New Sweden Little Folk Dancers.

The Maine Swedish Colony in Aroostook County provides a unique slice of life to the region. In towns such as New Sweden and Stockholm, you see Swedish flags almost as often as you see American flags, and signs bid visitors “valkommen,” or “welcome” in Swedish.

While Midsommar is a celebration, it also is a time when the Swedish heritage of the region is displayed proudly.

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Inside the gymnasium, Birgitta Anderson Whited led the crowd in the singing of the national anthems of America and Sweden. Many revelers knew the lyrics to the Swedish anthem by heart.

The New Sweden Little Folk Dancers is a traditional dance group composed of children from the area. Dressed in traditional costumes made of resplendent yellow, blue and white, the children danced to traditional music. Directed by Brenda Jepson, the youngsters formed a circle and sang, clapped and danced to live music by Stephen Boody.

A number of residents also were dressed in traditional Swedish garb, complete with flower wreaths that they had fashioned for their hair.

It was something that Marie Sanderson of Boston and her cousin, Patricia Mitchell, also of Boston, said they “really enjoyed.”

The women were in the area visiting relatives and were “sitting around the hotel room trying to think of something to do” when they ventured to the front desk of their Presque Isle hotel to ask the clerk for suggestions.

“She told us that we had to go to New Sweden to take part in Midsommar,” Mitchell said. “We had no idea what she was talking about until she described some of the events. We both love history, so we thought we’d enjoy it. We were not disappointed.”

“I was so impressed by the talent of both the musicians and the children,” said Sanderson. “It is rare to find people who take so much pride in their heritage, and to see them passing that love of their culture on to their children was amazing. I was just stunned when I looked around and saw people singing the Swedish national anthem without even looking at the lyric sheet. That’s just unbelievable to me.”

The festivities began on Friday with the opening of local museums, Swedish dance and entertainment and other activities. On Saturday, residents gathered flowers to decorate the maypole and later danced around it. The tall wooden pole is part of the ceremony and celebrates the colony’s Swedish heritage and ushers in the start of summer.

The events wrapped up Sunday evening.

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