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Summer festival raises maypole in Little Norway

POULSBO — Take the maypole or maistang from Sweden and combine it with bonfires from Norway. Use caution to ensure the pole doesn’t burn down and you have the makings of Poulsbo’s Midsummer Fest.

“Midsummer Fest is going to be the blending of both the Swedish and Norwegian cultures, because both countries have their own celebrations,” Sons of Norway Administrator Mariann Samuelsen said.

Midsummer Fest, while traditionally celebrated on June 23, will light up Poulsbo’s Waterfront Park at 4 p.m. June 25.

“We’re calling it Scandinavian Midsummer Fest because we have a lot of Swedes, too,” Samuelsen commented as she explained the differences in the two cultural celebrations.

In Sweden, maypoles or maistangs are cut from Douglas firs, wrapped in deciduous greens and erected in the center of town to celebrate the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year.

In Norway, bonfires are lit throughout the country. Celebrations in both countries last well into the night.

“If you fly over Norway on the evening of the 23rd, you will see bonfires all over, from small ones where people roast hot dogs to big ones with witches placed on top,” she explained. “It’s a very special day.”

In preparation for the event, the North Kitsap/Poulsbo Rotary Club will decorate Kvelstad Pavilion and the Poulsbo Noon Lions Club is expected to deck the boardwalk with greenery, she noted. The Port of Poulsbo is also expected to spruce up the boat ramp as well.

“We’ve sent letters to all of the downtown merchants and hopefully all will decorate their stores with something big or small,” Samuelsen said.

So far, the public’s response to the event has been extremely positive and the community has thrown itself behind the festivities, she commented.

“It’s so nice when the community comes together and says, ‘Yes, we’d like to do that,’” Samuelsen said.

The Glam Folk, which set up the Viking Village at Poulsbo’s Waterfront Park during Viking Fest, will return to Little Norway for the Midsummer festivities and should be set up by 10 a.m. on June 25.

“They’ll be doing many of the same things they did during Viking Fest and will be conducting demonstrations as well,” Samuelsen explained.

While the Glam Folk will provide a hands-on look at Viking traditions, the Sons of Norway’s Heritage Camp will provide ancestral knowledge.

“It’s important that we teach our young people things about our heritage and show them where a lot of the things they saw during Viking Fest come from,” she said.

The camp, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 23-25 and is open to children 7-14. Cost is $30 for Sons of Norway members and $45 for non-members.

Poulsbo lodge members will teach the classes that will cover everything from folk dancing and rosemaling to cooking.

Since no Scandinavian festival would be complete without hearty portions of Norwegian and Swedish specialties, downtown Poulsbo will once again be filled with gastronomic delights — sans lutefisk.

“We’re going to have rommegrot, lefse and lepskaus for sale as well as hot dogs,” Samuelsen noted.

Rommegrot is a sour cream porridge and lepskaus is a Norwegian beef stew with vegetables. With all the food and festivities falling into place, Samuelsen said it’s up to Mother Nature to do her part to make the event a smashing success.

“We’re hoping for at least a couple of hundred people and we’re hoping to have some beautiful, beautiful weather,” she commented. “Everyone should bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy the festivities.”

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