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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kingsburg Swedish Festival

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Starting, May 17, Kingsburg, California becomes more of what it is year-round, a Swedish Village in the thralls of a time-honored festival. It is such an authentic slice of old Swedish culture, that Swedes from Sweden come here to experience a taste of their own past that has disappeared from their home country.

Photos from past Festivals

It is the Kingsburg Swedish Festival and it is always the third weekend in May. This year, it is May 17-19. Though the festival officially begins on the 18, every Kingsburg resident knows that it really starts the night before with the Swedish Pea Soup and Pancake Supper downtown. That kicks off the summer’s farmer’s market.

According to Jess Chambers, Executive Director of the Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce, that supper is a big attraction, especially among locals. He notes that the celebration began in 1924 as a luncheon to commemorate the midsummer celebration of the harvest in Sweden. Kingsburg itself came to life as a Central pacific railroad town in 1873. Soon thereafter, the Swedes came and established "Kings River Switch". In 1874 "Kingsbury" was born, only to change its name to "Kingsburg" and in 1894. At one point, 94% of the population claimed Swedish descent.

The Swedish festival, once attended by representatives of the Swedish Consul General’s office includes a parade of trolls, the coronation of the Swedish Festival Queen, arts and crafts displays, exhibits, folk dancing, the traditional May Pole, a horse trot, love entertainment, rides, and lots of activities on Draper Street.

Then there is the food!

You will need the food to have enough energy to participate in the gammaldans. That is Swedish for “old dance.” And it is an energetic feast for the body and soul.

Festival dance

Jess Chambers attributes the positive spirit and joy of the community to its Evangelical and Lutheran heritage. This heritage gives rise to many of the festivals celebrated in the town, from the story of Santa Lucia to the contemporary car shows. Just a couple of weeks ago, that show attracted 10,000 people. “We are covered by the Holy Spirit,” he says, “The Holy Spirit reigns over this town.”

Over 5,000 people are expected for the Swedish Festival.

According to Chambers, there are many benefits to the community, but one of the most easily measured is the exposure that businesses get as new people descend upon the village. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for this annual event in the community and the ambiance lingers throughout the year.

Rather than just read about it, visit and then comment.


Image source: Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce.
Check out last year's article on the Swedish Festival in Kings River Life.
For more information contact:
Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce
1475 Draper St.
Kingsburg, CA 93631
559-897-1111; fax: 559-897-4621
Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.

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