Lindsborg is busy these days getting spiffed up for Hyllningsfest, the biennial celebration of Swedish heritage, an event that can draw crowds in the tens of thousands. It can be mistakenly thought of as a huge pageant that begins with a big, long, colorful Saturday morning parade.
The festival, this year on Oct. 13 and 14, does have a parade whose color and energy and variegation have been known to rival that of the State Fair’s street march in Hutchinson. But Hyllningsfest begins on Friday with, among other events, the solemn energy of song: The celebrated Smoky Valley Men’s Choir will perform at 6:30 p.m. at Bethany Lutheran Church. The precision and range of this group is magnetic, a performance that can’t be missed and, once there, is difficult to leave even after the singing has ended an hour or more later. When the final chorus, that last chord and note are struck and hang in the air, slowly fading into the mists of private recollection, there is that brief moment, a pause, as the audience gathers itself – and then roars appreciation. The memory of it all is a treasure. *
- John Pearson, the Lindsborg writer and historian, has noted that Svensk Hyllningsfest originally was named Svensk Hyllnings Fest or Swedish honoring festival, began October 15, 1941 in conjunction with the 60th anniversary celebration of Bethany College.
“Since then it has become the major, signature festival event of Swedish-American aspects of Lindsborg,” Pearson wrote, in 2009. “Hyllningsfest is Lindsborg’s own creation, something unique in Swedish-America…
“The Lindsborg News-Record of July 24, 1941, stated: ‘The name was distinctive among the dozens offered because it conveys exactly what the festival is planned to express — this Valley’s homage to the Swedish people for their contributions to the welfare of mankind.”
Hyllningsfest, a celebration incubated in the vision of a country doctor, William Holwerda, has become an homage to something that has always mattered here, a place that provokes in its sons and daughters emotions of fidelity and passion, an inexorable similarity with Sweden ‒ its spoken and written language, its telling of tales, its mischiefs and eccentricities of imagination, its religious faith at the base of most things, its relish of company in the midst of impoverishment or wealth, hardship (as recently experienced) or great fulfillment.
All these qualities exist still, and we commit every two years that Hyllningsfest remind us of this ‒ according not to a calendar, but to our heart.