North to Nisswa!

signpostIt’s that time of year again: School is almost out, Minnesotans have gone from wearing wool sweaters to shorts in what feels like just a few days, and my family is packing to head north to the 15th annual Nisswa-stämman Scandinavian Folk Music Festival.

Set in the iconic Northern Minnesota town of Nisswa, the festival was conceived by Scandinavian-American folk musician Paul Wilson and his wife/musical partner, Mary Abendroth. After attending gatherings of folk musicians in Norway and Sweden, the couple wanted to create a similar experience for their fellow folk musicians on this side of the pond.

My family has attended the festival for the past ten years (and in the spirit of full disclosure, my husband and I have been on the performers’ roster). Like a lot of other folk music enthusiasts, we’ve reaped the benefit of Wilson’s vision and seen it grow over the years. Picture five performing stages, with musicians from all over the United States, plus a handful of special guests each year from the Nordic countries. Imagine one of those stages devoted just to kids learning Nordic songs, dances, and crafts. Throw in a couple of sweaty dances that go late into the night, plenty of Scandinavian soul food, workshops to recharge the creative batteries of both dancers and musicians, and a fiddler’s parade through the center of town. It’s big fun for folk music fans of all ages, and it’s not too late to make your own plans to attend, June 6–7. If you can’t swing a getaway this year, you can still stream the festival’s Gala Opening Concert, featuring Denmark’s Jæ’ Sweevers, Norway’s MAAR trio, and the Swedish duo Ellinor & Leonor, with pre-concert music beginning at 6:15 on Friday evening.