Midsummer Fest set to hail solstice

 - File photo
— image credit: File photo

POULSBO — From the raising of the maistang to the lighting of the summer solstice bonfire, Poulsbo’s cultural roots will shine bright at this year’s St. Hans Midsummer Festival June 23 at Waterfront Park.

“It kind of ties us back to the community’s roots in Scandinavia,” said Poulsbo Sons of Norway youth director Joanne Graves. “The summer solstice is important in a lot of Scandinavian countries.”

Sweden, Denmark and Finland in addition to Norway each have their distinct, unique ways of celebrating the occasion, but all are rooted in similar traditions, she said.

“The waterfront is very important in Midsummer Fest,” Graves said. “People light bonfires, dance and celebrate.”

As it has for the past three years, the event will begin with the raising of the maistang or maypole, which is a Swedish tradition, she said.

The pole was donated by Sons member Phillip Swenson in 2005, and each year it is decorated by the children attending the lodge’s heritage camp prior to the celebration.

“The maistang is very important,” Sons cultural director Grace Overby said. “We’re going to cut the greens and flowers and decorate it.”

Along with the maistang, there will be various arts and crafts demonstrations ranging from hardinger fiddle playing to rosemaling, weaving and wood carving, Overby said. The public is also invited to make wreaths, which are worn throughout the event, she said.

“After the last couple of days of heritage camp, the children get the opportunity to participate in a community festival,” Graves said. “This just really ties us together.”

While the focus of Poulsbo’s Viking Fest in May was on Norway’s independence from Sweden, Midsummer Fest has a much deeper tradition, she said.

“Viking Fest is Constitution Day and is very much patriotic,” Graves said. “Midsummer Fest probably has deeper roots, because it is also St. Hans Day, which celebrates the birth of John the Baptist.”

The celebration of the summer solstice and St. Hans is another example of the blending of both the Christian traditions and those born long before, she said.

In addition to the cultural element of the event, there will be plenty of games for children, including sack races, balance beam and tug-o’-war.

As they have for the past decade, the Sons of Norway Vikings will frolic with kids of all ages in the fish toss before leading a torchlight procession to ignite the midsummer’s bonfire.

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