Swedish Fest to get more culture

The town of Thorsby’s annual Swedish Festival has maintained a tradition of celebrating the town’s heritage — but in the past, the fest has offered little Swedish culture.

That will change this year.

The Oct. 16 event will offer authentic Swedish cuisine, the harmonies of a Swedish choir and the dedication of a Scandinavian flag court in the town center. It will also likely draw a few Swedish dignitaries.
Eva-Lena Gustavsson, town council chairwoman of similarly named Torsby, Sweden, has requested an invitation to the festival, said Tracia Bussey of the Swedish Fest Committee.

“She has let us know she is extremely interested in attending and possibly bringing some of the council members with her,” Bussey said.
With the help of Per-Erik Persson of the Scandinavian-American Economic Development Alliance, Thorsby is continuing to pursue a sister city relationship with Torsby. Bussey said Gustavsson is “definitely interested” in pursuing such a relationship.

Torsby is known for being a center of American culture, particularly American music culture, in Sweden. The town, which has a population of about 6,000, regularly hosts bluegrass festivals and other events.

Torsby-based bluegrass band G2 performed here at Richard Wood Park in July and plans to return in the future.

“They are extremely interested in our music culture as well as other areas of our culture,” Bussey said. “They’re very interested in us. That could mean some open doors.”

Also on the invitation list is Swedish Ambassador Jonas Hafstrom. Bussey is confident that either Hafstrom or one of his staff members will attend as a representative of the Swedish Embassy, known as the “House of Sweden” in Washington, D.C.

During the three days leading up to the festival, from Oct. 13-15, Chilton County will host a “trade mission” for several CEOs of major Swedish companies. The mission is sponsored by CAWACO Resource Conservation and Development.

The businessmen will meet at Holiday Inn Express and the Alabama Power Conference Center in Clanton, where they will be exposed to potential economic opportunities in Chilton County.
“The Swedish Fest will be the finale for the CEOs that are coming in that week,” Bussey said. “It’s going to be a big week. Having the Swedish Festival here lets them know there is a connection with their country.”
The morning of Oct. 16, entertainment in Richard Wood Park will be provided by Swedish men’s choir Vasa Drangar of Atlanta.

The group will also perform during the dedication of a historical marker in observance of the Alabama Year of Small Towns and Downtowns. The marker will be unveiled in the center of the new flag court, and the group will sing the national anthems of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the United States.

As for the Swedish cuisine, there are three primary foods representative of the culture — meatballs, potatoes and lingonberries. All of these, in addition to other items, will be served at the Swedish Fest.
“That’s as Swedish as it gets,” Bussey said.

To apply for a booth or for more information, call Bussey at 217-0978 or visit thorsbyswedishfestival.com.

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