Midsummer was balmy and beautiful this year in Sveadal. At 80°F with a gentle breeze and all ages dancing around the maypole, what better time to celebrate midsummer? Of course the world correctly clocks this year’s summer solstice a week later, but the party-loving Swedish-Americans in Sveadal need a week to recuperate before equally celebrating again their dual heritage on the 4th of July.
This year’s 117th commemoration of North America’s longest continuously celebrated Swedish Midsummer began early. A number of campers arrived on Friday night knowing they had secured the best parking spots for the next day. By 8 a.m. Saturday the vendors for the Midsummer Marknad began arriving to set up their booths. The maypole had already been sheathed in bay leaves and redwood boughs with rings of birch wisps and only awaited the children to adorn the flowers. Elva Kaffe was being served with homemade breads and pastries when the children came to decorate. Then fathers raised the maypole for all to dance around. With Britt O’Grady teaching the dances and Jan Nordin singing the favorite tunes accompanied by the musicians, all the children took to the lawn with their parents in tow to act out the dance calls by “scrubbing the laundry” or “waddling like ducks” or “snuffling like piglets.”
Wonderful snacks and lunch were served at the Midsummer Café and many brought their own family picnic baskets. All the Swedish organizations in the Bay Area were provided with picnic tables to host their members who brought pot-luck Swedish delicacies. One lodge was particularly festive with home-brewed aquavit cleverly called “Majstong Sally” (parodying the rock song “Mustang Sally”). What could beat a leisurely lunch with friends, good conversations and songs on a warm day under the shade of massive oaks?
There was still time for another survey of the vendors, a dip in the pool, or Fred Bianucci’s informative guided tour of the grounds and history of Sveadal. Then everyone settled into a delightful musical prelude of Swedish melodies by Mark Walstrom and his group. With the audience lounging on the lawns, the traditional Midsummer procession began with the dual flags fluttering and this year’s Parade Marshall Sverker (“Gus”) Brolin leading the way, followed by the musicians, adults and children in Swedish folk costumes, the Maids of Honor, followed by Columbia, Svea and finally the queen with her crown bearer and train bearers.
Sandy Angel Watts, president of the Swedish American Patriotic League, welcomed all to the festivities, recognizing distinguished guests and past members of the court. This year’s program was historic in part because Queen Stephanie Van Horn is the third generation of her family (grandmother, mother and aunt) to be queen; so, appropriately farmor Ann Marie Van Horn, queen more than half a century earlier, crowned her granddaughter and presented her with the League’s pendant. The President recognized another historic event for this occasion, the attendance of Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafström and his wife Eva, together with Honorary Consul General Barbro Osher, all of whom were presented bouquets by children.
We in northern California believe that Ms. Osher’s honorary title reminds us of the honor it is to have her not merely represent Sweden for us but also to represent us to the Ambassador, the King and country. And the Ambassador in his remarks also noted how esteemed she is by announcing that she would soon make her debut hosting Sommar, the popular summer radio show in Sweden on Aug. 11 (broadcast at 1 p.m. in Sweden, then on the Internet at SOMMAR).
He noted how U.S. Secretary of State Clinton on Sweden’s Flag Day reminded Swedes and Americans alike that Sweden was one of the earliest to recognize our new-born country and that the ties remain as strong today, particularly with Sweden’s leadership in science and technology, economy, the arts and sustainable practices for a new world: all lessons which the U.S. can learn from.
Before the introduction of the Queen’s Court, the Kil Accordion Club Lite played half a dozen wonderful contemporary and traditional Swedish melodies. Then for the benefit of the Ambassador, Ted Olsson explained why our Midsummer celebration differs from that in Sweden, due to our cherished dual heritage. When the first midsummer was celebrated here, each Swedish organization chose a young woman to represent it. At random from among these they chose one woman to represent the land of their birth, Svea; another, the land of their new homeland, Columbia; and one more to preside over the whole day, the queen; with the other ladies forming the Queen’s Court as Maids of Honor, representing each of the organizations.
That tradition has continued to this day, reminding us of its auspicious founding. From the success of this first midsummer, celebrated at San Francisco’s first (of three) World’s Fairs in 1894, the organizations formed the congress of northern California Swedish organizations which is the Swedish American Patriotic League. The president’s primary responsibility is to produce an annual midsummer pageant, as has been done for 117 consecutive years.
A new midsummer tradition to begin next year was announced: the Muriel Beroza Midsummer Writing Contest, open to all students in northern California. Each year the theme will vary as may the format, but the winner will be lauded on stage by Muriel, our local historian, Nordstjernan contributor and author of Golden Gate Swedes. The winning entry will be printed in the program and displayed at the Sveadal Clubhouse. The rules may be found at www.sveadal.org. The theme for next year is “Celebrating Midsummer in Sveadal.”
The event had more than a thousand visitors; the dinner was sold out; the bar stayed open almost til midnight when the music stopped; and all the girls crawled into bed as instructed by the Ambassador—with seven different flowers tucked under their pillows, dreaming of their true love. Even Puck couldn’t have fashioned a more joyous event.

~Ted Olsson
San Francisco