by Mallory Moad
The cheery voice on the PA wished us “Valkomen!” and invited us to “celebrate mid-summer, Swedish style!” I was in the picturesque town of Kingsburg and that’s exactly what I planned on doing.
In Sweden, the mid-summer festivities take place around June 21. But here in the Central Valley, the celebration happens a month earlier (May 16 to be exact) to avoid the summer heat. What began in 1924 as an event for the residents of a retirement home has grown to a three day celebration of Swedish culture and traditions and includes music, dance, lots of food and – you guessed it – a parade. As I took my place on a sunny corner downtown, couples dressed in classic Swedish costumes danced casually down the street, accompanied by a duo playing a tune on accordions. Light-hearted and light on their feet, their delightful surprise appearance set the mood for what was to come.Leading the 49th Annual Kingsburg Swedish Festival Parade was a four member color guard from the local chapter of the Veterans Of Foreign Wars. What followed was a rollicking cavalcade of community pride and affection for this town so many folks call home (most of whom appeared to be either in the parade or watching it).
I’m a big fan of marching bands and with a total of seven participating, I wasn’t disappointed. Representing a variety of valley high schools and middle schools, and decked out in full uniform, they entertained the crowd with everything from classic marches to The Village People hit, “YMCA.”
The parade was not lacking in unique characters and included everything from dancing costumed princesses, greaser girls and crocodiles, to a drill team of cleaning ladies armed with vacuum cleaners. A parade in Kingsburg wouldn’t be complete without the legendary Golden Empire Basset Rescue team. Whether waddling down the street with the occasional stop for an ear scratch or riding with style in a red wagon, these adorable doggies are always a crowd pleaser.
But the emphasis was on all things Swedish. Even things you might not consider to be Swedish became Swedish for the day. Boy Scout Troop 392 sailed in an awesome Viking ship waving Swedish and American flags, while Girl Scout Troop 2402 energetically touted the virtues of Swedish Fish (“A Girl Scout Food”) from a bright yellow float. Members of the Kingsburg City Council dressed in Swedish-inspired outfits and greeted the crowd from a shiny vintage fire engine. There was even a solid waste disposal vehicle sporting a giant horned Viking helmet. The procession concluded with the traditional delivery of the flower-bedecked maypole to its place of honor in the center of Downtown Kingsburg where the fun continued.
Here’s something I learned from my experience attending the fourth parade of my yearlong project: “Swedish style” is a gentle enthusiasm served up with joy, a sense of humor and a great big “Valkomen!”
My name is Mallory Moad and I love parades of all styles.