By Melody Gleichman, Advertiser Staff Editor
(Information gleaned from a yellowed copy of the souvenir “Grand Mound/Rochester Swede Day, June 23, 1984” edition of the “The Advertiser” published by Dan & Melody Gleichman)
How did Swede Day begin? In April, 1979, a chance conversation between a local Rochester business owner, Polly Collins, and a Centralia Daily Chronicle reporter, Harry Bay, developed the idea that Rochester needed an identity. It was suggested that “Swede Day” might be good because Swede Hall was the only landmark in Rochester.
Polly Collins presented the “Swede Day” idea to the Grand
Mound/Rochester Citizens Group who then appointed her and Rev. Lauren
Lundblad to co-chair the first Swede Day. Polly, through research
that each year, Sweden has a national holiday they call, “Mid-Summer
Day Festival.” So this idea was adopted with the thought that on
this day, everyone would be a Swede, Swedish-Irish, Swedish-English,
Swedish-Indian, etc. On June 23, just two months later, the first
Swede Day was celebrated.
The activities included a parade, followed by a Swedish-style potluck picnic, and featuring displays of Swedish arts and crafts items during the afternoon. Baseball games were held that afternoon, and other events, such as horseshoe contests, Frisbee tossings, music, and folk dancing were enjoyed by celebrants. The Tony Onley family, Indians, presented a halfhour audience participation show. “The Swingers” musical group from Centralia provided music for a dance that night at Swede Hall. The royal court, made up of three princesses, did not go through a pageant that year. They were Audry Hilt, Peggy Hilt, Peggy Antonsen, and Lena Garcia. Jan Forsman acted as Miss Swede Day and three-year-old Aimee Booth served as Little Miss Swede: “Lycka till.” meaning “Good Luck,” was the Swedish greeting on the first year’s buttons. The buttons are sold each year to help defray expenses.
In 1980, the Swede Day celebration was postponed until July 19, because of the ashfall
from Mt. St. Helens. However, that didn’t seem to dampen the spirit of the committees.
And, that year, the very first coronation banquet was held to select a princess. Shari
Baldwin won the crown, and her attendants were Penny Brandt, Diane Gossard Bradley
and the late Nancy Halgren. A noon potluck followed the parade with entertainment afterwards. A dance was held that evening, featuring Seattle’s “Moonlighters” for music. The buttons that year carried the words, “Var’soh goo,” or you are welcome.
The 1981 celebration was adorned with Princess Tami Parkhurst, and attendants, Lisa
Richardson Hoglund, Kelly Miller and Laurie Keller, on June 28. The first Swede Day
Fun Run was held that year. Then following the parade, a Swedish dinner prepared by
the Grand Mound/Rochester Citizens Group, was served at Swede Hall. That year’s official saying on the Swede Day button was “Jagar en van,” meaning, “I am a friend.”
In 1982, Princess Renee Charboneau and her court, Christy Johnson and Connie Lael
reigned over the festivities on June 26. A Swedish Meatball dinner was again served
after the parade. An afternoon of musical entertainment was followed by The Early Day Engine and Tractor Association, displaying and demonstrating their antique gas one-lung engines and tractors.
The slogan on 1982’s button was “Hasa alla,” or Hello to all.” Last year, the titles, for the Swede Day Court was changed from “Princess and attendants” to “Queen and her court.” The first ever Swede Day Queen was Jenny Boden, and her court consisted of Heather Mortensen, Linda Hohman and Terry Davis. After the parade the Swede Hall dinner was followed by entertainment. Throughout the day, an arts and crafts show and sale were held at the Rochester High School gymnasium. Celebrants greeted each other with the slogan from the Swede Day button “Jag alskar dig,” meaning “I love you.
During the intervening years between 1982 and 2013 the Swede Day celebration has developed into the Swede Day Mid-Sommar Festival held on the third Saturday of June each year. 2013 marks the 34th year of this annual Swede Day Mid-Sommar Festival celebration in Rochester, WA. A big change to the Swede Day Court in 2013 was opening it up for both boys and girls to apply so this year there will be either a Queen or a King and their court. The day will begin with the Kiwanis Pancake breakfast and Fun Run at 8:00 AM. The parade will begin at 11:00 AM at the intersection of Paulson Street and Hwy 12 and end at Swede hall about noon. This will be followed by the Swedish Meatball lunch, entertainment, and vendors booths at Swede Hall.