January 18, 2020
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More than two dozen Swedes helping to mark summer’s arrival in New Sweden

Julia Bayly | BDN
Julia Bayly | BDN
Members of the Orust Dancers of Sweden are in Aroostook County this weekend to take part in the annual Midsummer Festival in New Sweden. On Friday, June 22, 2012, several members of the group joined residents as they gathered wildflowers for use around the community in various traditional activities. Collecting flowers in a field above Madawaska Lake were Orust dancers Mona Bodin (left), Janne Anderson and Solveig Tillander.

NEW SWEDEN, Maine — Swedes from near and far are getting their Nordic on this weekend during the annual Midsummer Festival going on now through Sunday in New Sweden.

This year, northern Maine’s Swedish Colony has some special guests — 27 members of the Orust Folk Dancers from the island of Orust in Sweden arrived this week to entertain and join residents as they celebrate the coming of summer.

The dancers were set to perform a few times during the three-day festival that started Friday.

Friday morning about a dozen of the dancers joined in for the annual gathering of the flowers used to decorate churches and the traditional Maypole and to make head wreaths.

“This is my first visit to America and it has been very good,” Solveig Tillander, Orust dancer, said Friday morning while waiting for the rest of the volunteer flower pickers at the rest area overlooking Madawaska Lake. “We are very excited to be here.”

Among those hosting the dancers is Paul Carlson, originally from Illinois but who has been summering in the New Sweden area since 1969.

This week, he found himself with the opportunity to use his Swedish language skills with his guests.

“It’s quite fun to be here and have someone speak our language,” Tillander said. “We did not expect him to be so good at it.”

The year-round and summer residents around New Sweden were clearly reveling in showing off their little corner of Sweden-away-from-Sweden to the guests.

“My grandmother was born here and moved down to Massachusetts,” Heidi Johnson of Williamsburg, Mass., said. “They never went back to Sweden and that is why I am so excited to talk to these dancers and learn what I can.”

For their part, the members of the Orust dancers are happy to bring some of Sweden to the festival.

“The people here seem to be more impressed with our dancing and Midsummer than they are in Sweden,” dancer Mona Bodin said with a laugh, before heading out with a pair of snippers and a bucket to gather flowers.

Over the weekend the festival features museum tours, meals, art and cultural displays, historical tours and the traditional Midsummer Pole at 11 a.m. Saturday.

New this year is a game which could strike fear into the hearts of area candlepin bowlers.

According to its official website, Kubb — or “Viking bowling” — is “a classic Viking game played for 1,000 years on the Baltic Island of Gotland.”

No balls or pins needed. Rather, participants use blocks of wood to knock down other blocks of wood.

The games begin at 10 a.m. Saturday next to the New Sweden Historical Society.

“The Midsummer Festival is all about connections between the old country and the new,” Carolyn Hildebrand, festival co-chair, said. “It’s about celebrating life and the new beginnings that come with summer.”

A complete schedule for the Maine Swedish Colony’s Midsummer Festival, including the appearances of the Orust Dancers, is available on its website at www.maineswedishcolony.info.

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