VERMILLION — It will be a milestone celebration next weekend when area residents come together to celebrate the 150th Dalesburg Midsommar Festival. The historic event will take place Friday afternoon and evening, June 21, featuring music, a Scandinavian smorgasbord, children’s activities, and the raising of the Maypole at the end of the celebration.
The festival is a joint effort of three traditionally Swedish rural churches in the area — Dalesburg Lutheran, Dalesburg Baptist, and Komstad Covenant. The event was started in the late 1860s by settlers from Dalarna County of Sweden who came to Dakota Territory and wanted to have a Midsommar celebration similar to what was held in their home country.
Today, the event is a day for family and friends to celebrate the longest day of the year and the start of summer, according to organizer Ron Johnson, who has helped plan the celebration for nearly 45 years. Dalesburg Midsommar is all about family, faith, and friendship, he said, and this year, as area residents observe the 150th celebration, it is about history and heritage as well.
"Simply put, 150 years is a long time," says Johnson. "It’s a testament to the desire and perseverance of the congregation and the community to want to continue a tradition this long. It’s a testament to the want of the congregation and the community to continue to celebrate a holiday – a tradition – from another place and another time, and to celebrate the tradition in a modern setting with present and former residents, and of course guests."
This year’s sesquicentennial Midsommar celebration kicks off at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 21, with a free musical performance by singer-songwriter Chuck Suchy, known as the "balladeer of the Northern Plains." Suchy’s afternoon performance will be delivered inside the air-conditioned church.
Suchy, a favorite among Midsommar Festival attendees, has produced six albums and has been featured in a television special.
"This is the third time that Chuck Suchy has performed at our festival," Johnson said. "He is a songwriter and performer from Mandan, North Dakota. He is a farmer who captures in song his experiences past and present of living on the land and the people who inhabit it."
After Suchy’s performance, enjoy the Scandinavian Smorgasbord from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The menu includes potatis korv, meatballs, salads, new potatoes and other Scandinavian treats. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Meanwhile, the Church Youth Stand, featuring taverns, homemade pie and snacks, will be open all day, beginning at noon.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, enjoy children’s activities and browse vendors and watch demonstrations that will be set up on the lawn of the church. Guests can learn about Scandinavian culture through demonstrations of lefse and krumkake making by Dalesburg’s WELCA Country Store, rosemaling painting from Black Hills Rosemaling Association, hardanger embroidery with The Shanty Stitchers, and tatting by Bobbins & Pins Lacemakers. Photos and information on Swedish settlers in the area will be offered by Kristy Morris. Kids can try painting a Dala horse among other activities.
A variety of other vendors will be on hand, too, including Blue Monarch jewelry and accessories, Four Winds Boat Shop and Woodcraft, The Shanty Stitchers with quilting and embroidery supplies, Irish Twins homemade soaps, and St. Mark’s Lutheran with Scandinavian flags and flower crowns.
At 7 p.m., don’t miss the evening musical program, which takes place outside on the North Lawn. Make sure to bring your lawn chairs and blankets, along with insect repellant. The evening program will feature USD’s Dakota Ragtime Trio featuring USD professor Dr. Darin Wadley on xylophone with other musicians on sax and tuba, and headliner Suchy. At the end of the program, don’t miss the raising of the flower-covered Midsommar Pole, and be sure to stay to participate in or watch folk-dancing around the MIdsommar Pole.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Dalesburg Midsommar Festival, a specially-commissioned piece of artwork by acclaimed artist the Rev. Paul Oman, of Wisconsin will be on display. Prints of the work can be ordered at the celebration.
Oman will be on hand as the celebration closes on Sunday, June 23, with a community worship service at Dalesburg Lutheran at 9 a.m. Oman will execute a painting at the worship service sponsored by four area country churches — Dalesburg Lutheran Church, Dalesburg Baptist Church, Komstad Covenant Church and Brule Creek Lutheran Church.
Dalesburg Lutheran Church is located on University Road 12 miles north of Vermillion (which may be closed by heavy rains). Other routes include 8 miles south of Highway 46 on University Road; or take I-29 exit 42 (Alcester/Wakonda) and go 5.5 miles west and 4 miles south.
Dalesburg Lutheran Church was founded by Dakota Territory homesteaders who emigrated from Sweden in the 1860s. The first building was erected in 1874. The present sanctuary dates from 1897. The ELCA church features impressive woodwork, stunning stained glass windows, and, of course, Midsommar – all in a beautiful countryside setting.
Johnson hopes many will attend this year’s celebration.
"Our festival is a celebration of Rural and Scandinavian heritage," he said. "We offer musical and historical programs, Scandinavian food and "miscellaneous eats," children’s activities, and Scandinavian and local arts & crafts. We see our festival as an event in a rural community. Where else can you hear a band play next to a cornfield!"