Midsummer Fest ushers summer into Poulsbo

POULSBO — Little Norway took a page from the past and brought it to life as Midsummer Fest dominated Waterfront Park on Saturday.

The celebration of the summer solstice in Poulsbo was an excellent fit for the high temperatures and sunny skies that graced Liberty Bay.

“I think overall it was a great event and the weather was absolutely beautiful,” said Sons of Norway Administrator Mariann Samuelsen.

The festival was a mix of Scandinavian cultures and began with the raising of the maistang or maypole — a Swedish tradition — and concluded with the lighting of a ceremonial bonfire — a Norwegian tradition celebrating the arrival of summer.

“Once the maypole was raised, everything really got going and it was a wonderful occasion,” Samuelsen remarked.

With the maypole in place, dancers soon filled Kvelstad Pavilion as children from the Sons of Norway proudly demonstrated a couple of steps they learned during the lodge’s heritage camp.

“The kids have learned a lot these last three days and it’s amazing how much they’ve accomplished,” noted Sons of Norway President Bob Moseng as he played the hardinger to a lively Scandinavian tune.

In addition to being taught traditional dances, campers learned about Norwegian culture and handicrafts like rosemaling and lefse making, Moseng said. While musicians filled the air with sounds of days gone by, the Glam Folk made their return to Little Norway and set up a miniature Viking Village in the park.

“We’ve had lots of people coming in and out and the weather’s been great,” remarked Glam Folk leader Thor. “We came in (Friday) night and got set up as quickly as we could.”

In addition to displays of handicrafts and Viking weapons, Glam Folk members discussed the true history of the Vikings with passersby.

“This is the real Norwegian history and many people don’t know where they came from,” Thor commented as he observed the festivities from his village.

As the Glam Folk spoke about the realities of life in a Viking village, children of all ages participated in activities including sack races, three-legged races and the ever popular fish toss.

With each successful toss of a dogfish into a bucket, the Sons of Norway Vikings filled the air with long refrains on their horns that brought smiles to participants’ faces.

Once all the fish had been thrown, Vikings lit their torches and surrounded the park’s fire pit.

“We light the fire to ward off unfriendly spirits, which are free to pass between worlds during midsummer,” said Sons of Norway Viking leader Bryan 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 remarked. 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 a midsummer’s night.

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