The family-centric festival gives visitors a chance to experience traditional music played on the fiddlelike nyckelharpa, and participate in dancing around a majstång or midsommarstång (maypole) raised for the event.
Dance coordinators dressed in brightly colored traditional costumes will lead visitors in simple dances around the maypole at 4:15 and 6 p.m. this year. Cold lemonade and an assortment of Swedish food and baked goods will be served, like the smorgastorta, a "sandwich cake" that can be vegetarian or filled with ham or seafood but always includes lots of mayonnaise. Try some colorful cookies or Tosca cake, a vanilla cake with butter-almond topping. Face-painting, games and crafts will be set up for the kids.
The Swedish were the first Europeans to land in the Delaware Valley back in 1638, predating William Penn and his band of Quakers by 40 years. The Swedes promptly established a trade colony to acquire tobacco and beaver pelts from the Winnipesaukee tribes that lasted about 17 years. In 1655, first the Dutch and then the British arrived to edge out the ruling Swedes — governors and soldiers who returned to their homeland.
Those Swedes who stayed were primarily farmers and craftsmen, according to Caroline Rossy, marketing director for the museum. "The longest-lasted legacy of the Swedish colony in Philadelphia are the churches," she said. "Gloria Dei Old Swedes church [on Columbus Boulevard] was built in the late 17th century, and there are 17 other churches between Wilmington and Swedesboro, N.J."
"The Swedes are huge lovers of nature and being outside," said Rossy. "Since the seasons are so extreme in Sweden, Midsommarfest is the biggest holiday of the year."
Midsommarfest, 4-7:30 p.m. Saturday, American Swedish Historical Society, 1900 Pattison Ave., $4-$10, 215-389-1776, americanswedish.org.
Art Attack is a partnership with Drexel University and is supported by a grant from the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge, administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.