Day 83 - Minnehaha Park
“I had to pinch myself in the arm to be sure I was not dreaming,” said then Crown Prince Gustav Adolf when he visited Svenskarnas Dag in 1938. Some 100 000 Minnesotans with Swedish roots had gathered at the State Fairgrounds, and the future monarch addressed them in Swedish.
Svenskarnas Dag is still celebrated in Minneapolis on the Sunday closest to June 24. The celebrations that began in 1934 nowadays take place at Minnehaha Park. The crowd has shrunk considerably from the heyday of what was originally a picnic with an outdoor church service. Each year there is a new Miss Svenskarnas Dag and someone like Arne Carlson, ex-governor of Minnesota, is honored as Swede of the Year. There is also Junior Royalty and the Swedish Immigrant of the Year, but most of all there is a pleasant music program to enjoy and a chance to meet fellow Swedes. Kids love the free ice cream instituted a few years ago by a Swede of the Year who remembered how it felt on a hot day when he as a little boy did not have any money in his pocket for an ice cream.
Near the annual Swedish festivities you also find a statue of the Swedish poet, composer, educator, and statesman Gunnar Wennerberg (1817-1901). The statue portrays the famous Swede holding his student cap and it is a copy of the original by Carl Eldh, that stands below the Uppsala University Library in Uppsala Sweden. On Valpurgis Day, April 30, the students in Uppsala gather at the slope below the University Library to listen to the University President's speech, sing the Student Song and then put on their student caps and start some serious celebrating. The Student Song was written by Wennerberg and you can read the poem on the base of the Minneapolis statue.
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