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June 19, 2009

Wear Flowers in Your Hair this Midsummer

Midsummer Tilt-A-Whirl
Photo: glowrocks on Flickr
using Creative Commons

by Emily Gerard

The Scandinavians got it right: The summer solstice is something worth celebrating. After all, what's not to like about the longest day of the year? The early days of summer give us plenty to celebrate, and plenty of daylight hours in which to revel. Best of all, while most festivals provide us with ample opportunities to spend money, midsummer festivals are usually free.

Here are some of the best and most interesting celebrations taking place in the next few weeks, reflecting the wildly different ways that cultures have come up with to mark the occasion:

New York City
Tonight, blonds of all descents will flock to the traditional Swedish Midsummer Celebration in Battery Park. The annual event features a giant midsummer pole made entirely of flowers, authentic fiddle music, and Swedish traditions of all kinds including singing and dancing and drinking cheers. Everyone will be wearing flower wreaths in their hair, so drop your pretenses and learn how to make one yourself. To top it all off, Battery Park is as lushly green as you can get in NYC. As you watch the sun set over the river while you enjoy some surströmming, Sweden's national dish of fermented herring, we guarantee you'll wish even this day could last a little longer.

Out west, the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, the largest of its kind in Colorado, taking place June 27-28, bills itself as a "celebration of the powers of nature and rejuvenation of life." While it boasts many of the same attractions as New York's Scandinavian affair, this weekend-long celebration in Estes Park also features a "Viking encampment," thus possibly pushing it to the next level of awesomeness. Plus, it includes a tip of the hat to the event's origins as a fertility festival, and nod to pagan rituals associated with nature. Hej!

Trenton, Michigan
In Trenton, Michigan, the celebration focuses on eco-consciousness. The sponsors of Retro Weekend! Green Days, Groovy Nights are "earth-friendly," a particular point of pride being the "green street" established last summer featuring a solar-powered entertainment stage. This year, July 10-12, the fourth annual midsummer festival expects 150,000 visitors and 200 artists and craftsmen, as well as sporting events and activities for children.

In Old Lyme, Connecticut's Midsummer Festival is even more arts-based. The historic town seeks to showcase its artistic heritage with numerous free exhibitions at its famous galleries and museums during the weekend of July 24-25. There will also be farmers' markets inspired by outdoor markets in French villages, showcasing the best produce of the season, and crafts and kid-oriented activities.

For music lovers, there will no better place to be this weekend than Candler Park, Atlanta. The Midsummer Music Festival is free and features bands ranging from the famous to the not-so, including Guster, Rusted Root, Jupiter Coyote, Sonia Leigh, Honey Island Swamp Band, Sol Junky, and Webster Humpage.


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