The North Coast Goes Nordic at Scanfest 2019

By Ann Powers | Sunday, June 9, 2019

Discover your inner Viking and save the date for the Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival from Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23 at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds.

Now in its 52nd year, the celebration opens on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. with approximately 70 vendors, dozens of singers, dancers and musicians, theatrical performances, games for all ages (such as a Swedish meatball eating contest and a tug-of war competition), as well as savory traditional food available to feast on throughout the weekend. This coastal community is brimming with longstanding Nordic heritage and pride and knows how to celebrate Scandinavia in style! 

For a little historical context, the earliest documented summer gathering of Scandinavian immigrants in Astoria dates back to 1938. Many locals fondly remember Scandinavian get togethers for folk dancing in the 1950s and 60s. The first “official” Scandinavian Midsummer Festival (also known as Scanfest) took place in 1968.

For this year's highly anticipated Scanfest, Friday’s featured events include the Queen’s Coronation, a Bonfire with Hex Burning and a public dance. They're all worth putting on your to-do list, but if you have to make a beeline for one, don't miss the Queen’s Coronation beginning at 7 p.m. in the fairground’s arena. Court members made up of local “princesses” will speak about their Scandinavian heritage as they vie for the coveted title of Miss Scandinavia 2019.

You can also hit the beer garden on Friday evening, with taps flowing until Saturday around midnight. The Nordic horses return this year and will be showing at the fairgrounds's outdoor arena all three days of the festival. 

Enjoy the Viking Nordic Dancers performing traditional folk dances, as well as several soloists singing the national songs of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Linger a little longer for the Torchlight Procession to the Bonfire where you’re invited to throw a hex in the fire to ward off bad luck in the upcoming year.

Friday evening wraps up with the Queen’s Family Ball featuring live music from Coreen Bergholm and her band called Scandinavian Country. The group is a local favorite that plays melodies perfect for polkas, schottisches, waltzes and hambos.

Rise and shine on Saturday, June 22, for the Midnight Sun Breakfast followed by the 16th Annual Running of the Trolls run/walk through the picturesque Olney countryside. There is also a costumed walking parade on the fairgrounds, flag raising, dancing around the Midsummer Pole and community theater in the beer garden. Check out the Viking Encampment featuring hourly demonstrations or participate in a Scandinavian lawn game known as a Kubb, where participants try to knock over wooden blocks by throwing batons at them.

Throughout the day and night you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to visit vendors, purchase authentic food specialties, dance and listen to live entertainment from Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest. Finally, another lively community dance caps off Saturday’s activities.

All photos by Scott Docherty 

Bring your appetite on Sunday for a Pannukakku Breakfast of Finnish pancakes and accompanying spread of toppings. There will also be a nondenominational church service at the Dairy Barn Chapel, and at the arena there'll be shopping, food, live entertainment and a narrated parade of Scandinavian folk dress. The 2019 Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival concludes late that afternoon with raffle drawings and closing ceremonies with flags. But before you leave, meander through Astoria and get to know the many Scandinavian-themed restaurants, shops, attractions and lodgings that are an integral part of this seaside hamlet. 

The Clatsop County Fairgrounds are located at 92937 Walluski Loop in Astoria. For a complete event schedule, ticket prices, parking fees and other festival information, go here

Make sure to check our Daytime EventsNightlife and Community Events pages for even more adventures along the North Coast. And don't forget to share your Pacific Northwest getaway adventures in the comments section below!

About the Author Ann Powers
Ann Powers is a reporter and writer who has lived and worked on the Oregon Coast. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and currently working on her master's degree in multimedia journalism at the University of Oregon's Portland campus. Originally from Wisconsin, she now calls Oregon home, describing it as, "the Midwest of the Pacific Northwest," due to its dairy-state status, beautiful environment and friendly people.