Midsummers and the pulsating call of home

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Over the decades, the Midsummers Festival in

Lindsborg has confirmed generations of Swedish

tradition, encouraged new ventures, tried new venues

and refined old ones. And over those decades,

Midsummers has embraced the color and energy

of life in a prairie town, bringing gaiety to new

levels. Here is a place that takes its celebrating

seriously, a place devoted to its heritage.

Now in its 43rd year, Lindsborg Midsummers recognizes

a Swedish holiday – this year, on Saturday,

June 21 – with traditional food, music, dancing,

art, games and raising the Midsommarstång

(Midsommar pole). Midsummers also comes on

the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of

sister city ties between Munkfors, Sweden, and

Lindsborg.

In Sweden, Midsommar especially celebrates

the summer solstice, a magical time when daylight

there lasts nearly all night, with all-day music and

dancing. At the center of the festivities in nearly

every village is the majstång (maypole) trimmed

with garlands of flowers, often in the form of two

circlets of flowers hung from a crossbar. In addition

to decorating the maypole, townspeople see to

it that every house gets a row of twigs around the

front door, and even boats and cars are festooned.

Once the maypole is raised, usually in the center of

a park, the music and dancing begin a celebration

that lasts well into the bright night.

*

SINCE JUNE 1971, Midsummers has been revived

in Lindsborg as part of the community’s

annual calendar of Swedish-American festivals.

Some aspects are unique to Lindsborg, such as arts

and crafts displays and sales, and others are more

traditional, such as raising the maypole.

Four years ago Midsummers in Lindsborg moved

from North (Swensson) Park to a former, historical

site near South (Riverside) Park; then, a couple of

years ago, organizers selected downtown and the

central business district as the epicenter, and it’s

been a popular choice. The event offers live entertainment

throughout the day, and many children’s

activities, including a bouncy castle, mini-train,

crafts, games, story-telling, and more.

The ever-popular “make your own” blomkran,

(crown of fl owers), one of the most important parts

of the festival, will be organized by the Lindsborg

Arts Council. The celebrated Lindsborg Swedish

Folk Dancers and Fiddlers, and the Folkdanslag,

will perform Scandinavian dances in Swedish

costumes in the entertainment circle at Main and

Lincoln. Visitors and onlookers are always encouraged

to join in the dancing – and especially around

the Maypole later, when the action moves south, to

Heritage Square adjacent to the Old Mill Museum

and Riverside Park.

All-day events begin at 7 a.m. with a Midsummer’s

5K/2-mile walk starting at the McPherson County

Old Mill Museum. Registration for the Festival’s

3rd annual Kubb Championships (Heritage Square)

begins at 8 and this year, the Midsummers Golf

Tournament begins at 9 at the Lindsborg Golf

Club. Downtown, the action begins quickly as arts

and crafts booths open, vendors offer their wares

and entertainment begins in the Circle.

About “Kubb.” The game (it rhymes with tube)

is sometimes called “Viking Chess,” a lawn sport

in which batons are tossed to topple opponents’

kubbs (tall ornamental blocks) and gain the chance

to knock off the big King Kubb; it all happens in a

26-feet by 13-feet playing field, or “pitch.” Kubb,

its history spanning centuries, is a popular lawn

sport in Europe and Scandinavia, and its appeal

has spread from its northern America niche, where

it is sometimes played indoors during winter. It’s

even a popular tavern sport (large taverns, we

would think).

There are entertainment, fun and games in

Heritage Square, and later, as dusk approaches,

Midsummers moves again uptown to the

Sundstrom Center for more music, a concert and

dance.

Everyone joins, everyone delights ‒ young, old

and in-between, 6th generation Swede to firstvisit-

ever. The tradition is about community, its

open heritage.

*

WE RECALL the theme for the 2010 Midsummers

Festival, Coming Home to Sweden, and it now

seems ever more appropriate. For many, Midsummers

is about connection, about coming home, in

a way, even for those who call home somewhere

else.

In our brief 13 years here we have come to know

many of the 17 Malms once listed in the phone

book; we have known people who were raised in

Lindsborg or Marquette or somewhere in the Valley

and then left, dreaming of success in far lands,

and after a long absence, fulfi lled or otherwise, returned

to live here for good.

Last week one long-married couple, among our

dearest friends, were on a front porch on North

Main, waiting for movers to arrive from Houston

with their belongings. He is a burly Irishman from

Queens, in New York; she is a Swede, from Lindsborg.

They left 30 years ago for northeast Kansas

and then Texas, he a writer and editor, she a teacher.

Now after lo, these decades, they are home, again.

There are other couples, other types, who have

come “back.” More than a few will say that once,

long ago, they had happened by for just a quick

look and a meal, on the way to somewhere else –

and years later they’re still here.

It turns out that there is comfort in such a place, in

the warm laughter of old men at coffee, in friendly

banter at a grocery store, in the breeze that carries

the happy cries in a park. There is, even, a kind of

reassurance in the paint-chipped buildings along

Main Street, in the trees nuzzling the slow sweep

of a river, in the gaunt old church outside town, the

skinny traffi c light downtown (now gone), and in

the familiar faces of the same crowds, the ebb-fl ow

of their traffi c at ball games and concerts, at commencement,

at weddings and funerals.

*

THIS IS often a time, as Midsummers concludes,

when some people, especially newcomers, are

surprised that they have taken root so quickly;

after only a few tender years, they feel the staunch

old American pull of home. This is born of many

things, but the old-timers say it comes mostly of

a shared joy of living. The pulsating call of home

has touched a million different corners of our

land, once and long ago defined by the directions

of rivers, home that was once the dry wash of the

Cimarron, the sandscapes along the Arkansas, the

shadowy bluffs of the Solomon, the sandstone hills

along the Saline, the gentle sweep of the Smoky

Valley. Today we have the call of all the places that

remain part of the land around them, places that

carry the vanishing echoes of our youth, the glow

of memories unlocked.

What is common among the new, the old, the

in-between? They have found places that incubate

and brace the human process, where intelligence,

kindness, imagination and sensibility, and courage

and fun, are all worth the courting. They have

found a community of the heart, the closest community

of all.

We might say they have found Midsummers.

***

Cruising along

on that glide path to zero

The state’s top environmental regulator has

given a green light for construction of a $2.8

billion coal-fueled power factory only moments

before new federal regulations were announced to

limit green house gas emissions at utility plants.

The federal law conflicts with the more liberal

Kansas regulations, setting the scene for another

states rights feud, the kind our forebears suffered

long before the turn of the century – the 19th century,

that is. Remember Marbury v. Madison? TR

and the Trust busters? (Hint: They weren’t rock

bands.)

Our road to coal-burning follows the state’s

approval for a 50 percent expansion at Seaboard

Foods’ hog feeding operation in Greeley County,

one that will house nearly 400,000 animals and

produce twice the amount of annual waste as the

city of Wichita. The Greeley County facility will

be the second largest of its kind in the United

States.

Crucial to the hog farm expansion was a wastewater

permit, quietly and quickly approved by the

Kansas Department of Health and Environment in

spite of a Kansas Geological Survey report that

declared the site’s water supply – the Ogallala

Aquifer beneath it – “effectively exhausted.”

And the future for our air? Water?

No matter. These days, according to our governor,

are for yesterdays, a return to those better

times, when men had the freedom to run a business

how they wished, to the 19th century, when

government looked the other way, rather than got

in the way, of certain economic freedoms.

Yesterday was a better day. And the 19th century

is dead center on our governor’s glide path to zero,

that path to a state with no income tax, no federal

regulations, no air, no water, and ultimately no

government. A state with nothing at all.

– JOHN MARSHALL

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