Thorsby Swedish Festival marks 25th year (updated)By Stephen Dawkins Published 3:07pm Saturday, October 12, 2013
Thorsby’s annual Swedish Festival recognizes the town’s Scandinavian heritage.
For the festival’s 25th anniversary, it was time to recognize the event’s history.
Four members of the original Swedish Festival organizing committee–Reita Price, Joanne Head, Brenda House Price and Betty Janney–were grand marshals of the parade that kicked off the day of festivities Saturday.
Reita Price said seeing the festival’s growth makes her proud, as does the fact that the festival still brings people together.
“Thorsby people are so good, and it just shows the community coming together,” Price said. “It’s about them uniting to have something great for everyone in the community.”
Price developed the idea for the festival soon after her younger brother’s untimely death in 1984. Rodney Price, who was 23 at the time of his death, loved Thorsby.
“Everybody then knew Rodney,” Reita Price said. “It was just a tragedy. Out of that tragedy, I wanted to do something to give back to something he loved.”
Price credits all those who helped get the festival going–and then continued it.
“It’s taken a lot of people to continue it,” she said.
Price approached then-mayor Sam Bentley, who was receptive to the idea.
It was decided the festival’s proceeds would go toward starting a marching band at Thorsby High School. Rodney Price also loved sports and music, Reita Price said, but he wasn’t a star athlete. She thought her brother would appreciate the band, something connected to sports that offers an alternative for those who don’t play the game.
The Chilton County Board of Education at the time told Price that if she could raise $10,000, the board would match her contribution to start a band.
She said she was amazed by the willingness of local businesses to contribute.
“We felt the hunger for it in Thorsby,” Price said.
The festival is still going strong, as organizer Laura Liveoak said the number of vendors increased from 70-80 last year to 96 this year.
“One of the vendors told me he figured it was close to 2,000 people,” Liveoak said. “Of course, we have no way of knowing how many we had.”
Price said she “never dreamed” the festival would last 25 years.
“A lot of happiness has come from it,” she said.
Liveoak thanked everyone who helped with the festival and said the Swedish Festival Committee is looking for new members. Anyone interested in joining should call Liveoak at (205) 217-9395.
“We want to keep this going and growing,” she said.