Midsummer Fest gets warm welcome

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO — The seemingly ominous clouds hovering over Liberty Bay Saturday must have obeyed Thor — the Norse god of thunder — as they held off just long enough to make Little Norway’s Midsummer Fest a success.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful. The weather’s cooperated, too,” Poulsbo Sons of Norway lodge youth director Joanne Graves said during the Saturday event at Waterfront Park.

The more than 40 children who attended the lodge’s heritage camp Thursday and Friday did an outstanding job of preparing for and participating in the event celebrating the summer solstice, Graves said.

“All of the kids did a dance they’d done only one time before, and they did great,” she said.

The event also gave the entire community the chance to enjoy the true spirit of midsummer in a family-friendly venue, she said.

“We had a great camp and we’re having a wonderful midsummer so far,” Graves said. “This is what it’s all about.”

Sons lodge cultural director Grace Overby agreed with Graves’ assessment of the festivities, which were punctuated by dancing, music and a myriad of children’s games including the highly anticipated fish toss.

“It’s going very well. We even had someone from Norway here,” Overby said. “It’s been very successful.”

The event blurred generational lines as young children and older adults joined in the celebration of the arrival of summer, she said.

“The kids got to perform in front of all of their friends and families,” Overby said.

One of the performers was Garrett Steele, who has danced with the lodge since grade school and is now among the leaders of the older youth dance group.

“It’s kind of the kick off to the summer season,” Steele said.

Coming to the park and performing has become a seasonal rite of passage as the lodge’s dance groups also perform during Julefest, he said.

“It’s just a lot of fun, and there’s lots of things to do,” he said.

Those “things” included the Sons of Norway Viking fish toss — in which participants try to throw dead dogfish into a metal wash tub. Steele said he would probably give it a try.

As the festivities began winding down, a torchlight procession of Vikings made its way from the Sons lodge to the fire pit, where an unlit bonfire was waiting for its turn to embrace the windy summer’s night.

“We light the fire to ward off unfriendly spirits, which are free to pass between worlds during midsummer,” said Sons of Norway Viking leader Brian Davis, as he explained the history of midsummer bonfires.

When Christianity came to Nordic countries, Midsummer’s Fest was changed to St. Hans Day in honor of John the Baptist, but many of the traditions remained, Davis said. With the history of the bonfire explained, Davis readied his torch-wielding group to prepare to light the fire.

“Raise your torches high to the sky and light the fire,” he instructed.

With those words, flames licked the fading evening sky putting, the final touches on another midsummer’s night.

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