Janet Kelly and Kingsburg Residents
Swedish Days have returned! On May 13 through 15, with beautiful weather gracing our valley, this Kingsburg tradition was back in full vigor.
An Evolving Event
The Swedish Festival has been an annual tradition since 1967. Before that, Swedish Heritage was celebrated, but not as an annual tradition. According to the Kingsburg Swedish Festival website, The event began in 1924 as a luncheon to commemorate the midsummer celebration of the harvest in Sweden. Today it’s a full-fledged festival running from Thursday through Saturday of the third weekend in May.
The current festival had its birth in 1967 when Kingsburg businesses were closing due to the new Freeway 99 making access to Fresno’s shopping centers faster and easier. Business owners were concerned. Someone suggested capitalizing on the town’s Swedish Heritage as a way to bring in business. Several citizens traveled to Solvang, which had become a Danish tourist attraction on the central coast.
During the visit, Solvang’s business leadership said, “Don’t do what we have done. We are now a ‘Danish Disneyland’ and have lost our community.” They suggested keeping the current businesses, adding Swedish architecture to the existing structures, and creating some kind of festival to bring in tourists. This idea was embraced, and the Kingsburg Community began the transformation.
Over the years, The Swedish Festival has changed too. Vendor booths in the park moved downtown. Early festivals didn’t feature Swedish food, but now Swedish cuisine is readily available. The time of year was changed from traditional mid-summer in June to the third week in May in order to accommodate local school bands, and because of the heat. A Swedish Cultural Village was instituted, helping visitors learn about the Scandinavian culture of Kingsburg’s founders. Some of these changes have been embraced by the community, and some disliked.
This year’s festival had several changes; the name was changed to Swedish Days, the parade route altered, and there were fewer bands due to Covid concerns. Still Sharon Person, Swedish Days Chairman, The Chamber of Commerce, local service clubs like Rotary and Lions, and dozens of volunteers pulled together an amazing three day event.
Some Community Comments About This Year’s Swedish Days
Kimberli Scheline White: I loved everything this year about Saturday. The Parade route was awesome. The booth set up was amazing & I really want to thank everyone who made it happen. A big Shout out to our Chamber of Commerce.
Andy Soto; I loved the new layout with booths through the center of Draper and on the side streets. Overall it felt much larger than in previous years.
Stephanie Escovedo Ransom; I miss when it was held in the park. There were so many more vendors. I did enjoy it this year though since it was my grandson’s first one ever. It was also so nice walking around seeing everyone smiling and excited to see each other
Lori Sanders: I actually loved having the parade on Ellis Street. It offered much more shade than on Draper Street, and lots of grassy areas for kiddos to play on. I felt as if it created a much more family type environment! It was also so nice not having to look around vendors to see the parade entries. I like the way Draper Street was still linked to the parade by having food vendors between Ellis and Draper. Of course my preference is still having vendors in the park, but overall I thought the layout this year was fantastic!
Brenda Brandt Deason: The perfect weather was a huge factor. I liked the parade route without vendors. Having the vendors in the street was much easier to navigate. My nine-year-old nephew was visiting from out of town and it was his first parade. He asked me what we were going to pray about. I told him it wasn’t a prayer meeting, we would watch while cars and bands went by. We went to the opening ceremony and what did they do first? They prayed.
Kristi Thomas-Erebia (Honoring 50 year Anniversary Couples) My Uncle Butch (Carl) & Aunt Judy Thomas are such an amazing couple. They both “stepped up” after my Dad passed away, standing by my side through everything, including (giving) advice on any issue without judgment. I just want the world to know how special they both are. So many peoples’ lives have been changed because of their positive influences.
The Luther and Wesley Linda Families: Thank you Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce. Between honoring 50 year anniversary couples, sharing Swedish traditions, and supporting businesses and civic organizations, you have done a bang up job of maintaining a many-year tradition, and making Kingsburg the “Gem of the Valley.” Our family has been here since 1880, and we appreciate all you have done.