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Midsummer Festival debuts in Dubuc

Event featured traditional raising of the pole and dancing as well as displays of Nordic crafts, Viking and Saami tents.

DUBUC – The first Midsummer Festival arranged by the Melville and District Scandinavian Club was held on Sunday.

Around 50-60 people were in attendance to partake in the midsummer festivities with some decked out in traditional Swedish garb. 

Yorkton This Week spoke with event organizer Carolyn Thauberger about the significance of the festival and the roots of her interests in it.

"I've been interested in Scandinavian things for quite some time," said Thauberger.

Thauberger said her interests for Scandinavian culture started with dance.  She had been involved with Ukrainian dance but moved on to Scandinavian dancing later in life.

"I really loved it, but then I got a little bit on in years and it was hard to keep up – so I started my own dance group – Scandinavian dancers – and that is a more sedate kind of thing," said Thauberger with a laugh.

"For twenty-five years I directed that dance group and Jonathon Ward was our fiddler – he was in the symphony orchestra at the time, but he loved Scandinavian Folk dancing, so he danced with us whenever possible," said Thauberger.

Ward was also in attendance at the event to provide musical ambiance for the midsummer celebrations.

“Jonathan Ward has been principal viola and composer with the Regina Symphony Orchestra since 1989.  In addition, he teaches at the University of Regina's Conservatory of Performing Arts and for the Regina Public Schools Fiddle Program, which takes place in three inner city schools,” read an excerpt from wards bio, adding, “for many years Jonathan provided the fiddle music for the Regina Nordiska Scandinavian Folk Dancers.  A skillful folk dancer, he often performed with Nordiska in that role as well.”

“I had played fiddle with Carolyn's Scandinavian dance group – 20 years ago or so,” said Ward, “this is a good way to sort of reconnect with the whole Scandinavian thing.”

"So, he's here today to lead us around in in our Midsummer Festival – we're following Swedish traditions and the Swedes would set up a fancy midsummer pole," said Thauberger.

"I think it used to be a straight pole, but at some point, it turned into a cross," said Thauberger, adding, "I don't know the significance of that, nor does anyone else."

“It has often been speculated that the maypole originally had some importance in the Germanic paganism of Iron Age and early Medieval cultures, and that the tradition survived Christianisation, albeit losing any original meaning that it had,” read an article on the the raising of Maypole according to Wikipedia.

Thauberger said this is the group's first attempt at holding a midsummer festival that is open to the public.

"The Melville and District Scandinavian's been fairly low key in that its been serving just its members with events," said Thauberger, noting, "they've done talks and presentations, and they've gone to museums, and held luncheons, and celebrated festivals like midsummer with picnics and things like that."

"This time we wanted to try something that was open to the public," said Thauberger.

"We started organizing two months ago and have pulled it together quite nicely," said Thauberger, adding, "I think we've got a wide range of things – there's a lot of stuff here for children."

The event featured the traditional raising of the pole and dancing, viking games, various children's races, tug-of-wars in different age categories as well as displays of Nordic crafts, Viking and Saami tents.

Though midsummer festivities are typically held on the summer solstice, which occurred on the 21 of June this year, the celebrations were held on the weekend for convenience.  

"Scandinavians are not particular about a lot of things – they go with what's reasonable, what's logical," said Thauberger in regards to why the festivities were held on the weekend.

The event took place at Thauberger's home in Dubuc, where she is originally from.

“I went to school – university – when I was 16,” said Thauberger, adding, “I hadn't lived here since, other than around 2005 or so I took over my mother's house here and I used it as a summer cottage because I was teaching in BC, and going to university there, and finishing off my I just used it as a summer house.”

Thauberger said when the pandemic happened, she moved back.  

“I thought, 'this is a place the germs will not find me',” said Thauberger with a laugh.

Thauberger, who holds a PHD in teaching reading and education, said “I'm always up for doing something,” with regards to holding another Midsummer event next year.

“When I retired from teaching three years ago it left quite a hole in my head where I used to think about teaching,” said Thauberger, adding, “I still had all the same hobbies that I normally do – a lot of them are Nordic related – I do Scandinavian crafts and Scandinavian folk dancing and things like that, and I also organized a lot of events in British Columbia at the Scandinavian community centre.”

“So, I've been involved with the organization of a midsummer before, but I have never done it all myself,” said Thauberger.  

Thauberger said she welcomed the challenge of organizing the event.

“Yes, it challenging, and that's what I had wanted – something where I would have to be creative, something where I would have to think.”

Thauberger said the event was originally planned for Saturday but was postponed until Sunday due to heavy rain.  This, unfortunately, saw several attractions having to cancel due to being booked for other events.

“This is a June in Saskatchewan – it's very likely that you're going to run into rain,” said Thauberger.

Thauberger said her first attempt at a Midsummer Festival was a learning experience.

“My first mistake was to make a metal midsummer pole – you don't put a metal pole thirty feet in the air in Saskatchewan and hope to live,” said Thauberger with a laugh, adding, “perhaps next year I'll try to find something wooden that would go up there.”