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All things Scandinavian at The Oaks' Midsummer Fest

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - With a series of mighty heave-hos, the men tilt the hefty Majst̴ng upright.The 85th continuous year of the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, recently moved to Inner Southeast, enlivened historic Oaks Amusement Park for the third year on June 15, which Рyes Рwas slightly before summer even officially began.

“This festival is an important cultural event for the entire Portland community, regardless of heritage,” remarked Scandinavian Heritage Foundation Executive Director Mike O’Bryant at the festival.

“It’s also important for the regional Scandinavian community to demonstrate and preserve their Nordic heritage.”

The most important reason to preserve a culture is to remember one’s origins, O’Bryant reflected, to THE BEE. “We’re a multicultural society. While we’re all citizens of the United States, celebrating our heritages adds to the richness of our society.”

Scandinavians have a long tradition of celebrating the Summer Solstice with festivities, including food, music, dancing – and the traditional raising the Majstång (Maypole).

“It is an incredibly important celebration in Nordic countries, because the winters are so long – and dark,” O’Bryant said. “Raising the Majstång signifies rebirth and renewal.”

The festival had been held for years on the grounds of the German American Society building, since taken over by Portland Community College Southeast Center. Consequently, nonprofit Oaks Amusement Park has been a boon for preserving this celebration.

“Having it at ‘The Oaks’ helps in four ways,” commented O’Bryant. “It has a larger, more complete facility for an outdoor festival; it is centrally-located; and, it has lots of free off-street parking. Plus, many visitors who come only to enjoy the carnival rides here are drawn to our event, allowing us to introduce more people to Nordic culture.”

The festival is more than Swedish pancakes and meat balls, he added. “Scandinavian countries are recognized, worldwide, as first in design. And, Scandinavians are also known for supporting peace and mediation, and a different way of living in the world.”

As a player sounded his Bock Horn, the Majstång procession began, signaling the unofficial start of summer – both in Scandinavia, and in Sellwood.