August 20, 2019
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History, nostalgia, art convene at New Sweden’s Midsommar Festival

Generations of Madawaska Lake residents remember when Stan’s General Store was central to life at the lake, especially in the summer. Known for its 10-cent cup of coffee, its ramshackle exterior and vibrant interior, Stan’s attracted regular groups of customers at various times of day and evening for relaxed camaraderie that bound the lake community together.

The lakeshore building is gone, but visitors at New Sweden’s annual Midsommar Festival June 16-18 will be able return to Stan’s via film.

Owner Stan Thomas himself will be the guest of honor at a showing of the 30-minute film “Stan’s: A Jewel in the Crown” at the New Sweden Baptist Church June 17 at 2:30 p.m.

“Being a Baptist Church, we cannot charge for coffee (this rule goes back to Christ throwing the money changers from the temple), but we can offer coffee with a suggested donation of 10 cents a cup,” said festival co-chair Brenda Jepson. Memorabilia — from T-shirts and paintings of Stan and his store, to pens, mugs and photos — will be on display in the church vestry to augment the showing of the film created in the 1990s by Caribou High School students, under Jepson’s direction.

“We hope many of the old crowd who hung out at Stan’s will come to help us reminisce,” she said.

The “Trip Down Memory Lane with Stan Thomas” is one of several new events added this year to the traditional Midsommar favorites — flower gathering, children dancing around the Midsommar pole (Majstang), making hair wreaths, painting wooden Swedish horses, eating Swedish foods and visiting the New Sweden Museum, Lindsten Stuga, Lars Noak Blacksmith Shop and other historic sites.

Discovery of paintings by noted geologist Olof Nylander (1864-1943) inspired a new Midsommar art exhibition. Last year, while collecting Nylander’s photo collection to display at Midsommar, festival organizers discovered paintings by Nylander in the basement of the Nylander Museum in Caribou.

“We knew he supported himself as a house painter while looking for fossils up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but we had no idea that he painted art,” Jepson recalled. “This sparked the idea not only to display these hidden treasures, but also to showcase any other hidden artistic talent at work in Maine’s Swedish Colony.”

The work of a dozen artists, depicting local history, heritage and landscapes, will be featured in the “Maine Swedish Colony: Old and New” art show at the New Sweden Covenant Church. “We are very excited about this,” Jepson said. “Some are doing special new work for this exhibition.”

One of the 12 artists also has done two paintings currently competing for reproduction on a new Midsommar T-shirt. Fans on the New Sweden Historical Society Facebook page will decide which of two scenes painted by Andrea Peterson will be used.

“It’s amazing what happens when we start to discover hidden talent in our own community,” Jepson said. T-shirt sales will benefit the New Sweden Historical Society.

The Covenant Church will also host a demonstration and display of old sewing machines and a quilt show that was so popular last year it will be repeated with all new quilts.

New Sweden native and genealogist Lynn Johnson will return for Midsommar from her home in California to help Swedes “Find Your Swedish Roots” in sessions at the New Sweden Museum June 16 at 1 p.m., June 17 at 9 a.m. and June 18 at 2 p.m.

A traditional Swedish supper will be served at the Gustav Adolf Lutheran Church June 17 from 4-6, followed by a Swedish social at the New Sweden School with Swedish coffee rolls and dancing to music of the “Swedish Meatballs.”

After a 13-year hiatus and two years of practices, an adult group of New Sweden folk dancers, led by Lukas Lagasse, will perform at the 1 p.m. program in Thomas Park June 18, with some dancers wearing heritage costumes. Sarah Berube, recent Caribou High School graduate, will wear a costume that belonged to Annie Lindsten and another will wear the costume of the late Edwina Jacobson Anderson, beloved member of the New Sweden Historical Society.

“Many Swedish visitors tell us they are amazed that our festival lasts so long — three days if you include flower gathering and the dinner/dance with the Swedish Meatballs on Friday evening,” Jepson said. “Swedish visitors tell us in the Old Country, folks go out and dance around the Midsommar pole in the village square in the morning and then go off for the day to party with relatives at nearby lakes.

“In New Sweden, community celebration, as well as faith, mean a lot. All the churches are involved and we have so much fun seeing each other after the long winters here.”

Jepson said in the town of about 610 people at least 100 are involved in some facet of Midsommar. “It is a labor of love, but a thrilling one if you love history as so many of us do.”

 



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