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Local

Swedish Days- It's been 'Swede' for 70 years

Beloved festival celebrates milestone anniversary this year

Abby May of Geneva throws candy to the crowd on Third Street during the children's parade at Swedish Days in Geneva in 2015.
Abby May of Geneva throws candy to the crowd on Third Street during the children's parade at Swedish Days in Geneva in 2015.

Swedish Days will celebrate its 70th anniversary June 18-23. When an event has lasted for seven decades, there are bound to be stories told and memories made with friends and families.

I started working at the Teen Shop at 316 W. State St. during Swedish Days, 1977 when I was 13. I was hired to help with sidewalk sales and was given a Swedish costume made from wool to wear out in the 80 degree heat.  Owners Eva and Conard Mann would pay for our lunch each day during the festival including corn dogs from the street vendors and a hamburger from Little Red Hen at 113 W. State St.  Tuesday night was Midnight Madness and most of the shops were open until midnight.  We would prepare the sale tables during the day, close at 5 p.m. to take a dinner break and then reopen at 7 p.m.  

Terry Emma, long-time Geneva resident and Geneva History Museum Executive Director

It's always a magical experience watching this event draw thousands to our town to enjoy family fun and showcase Geneva in a positive light. After months of planning by our small staff, the pieces fall into place as businesses, volunteers, the city departments, vendors and sponsors come together. Even after 41 years the festival never fails to give me a sense of pride in our community.  Tack sa mycket for the memories and happy 70th to Swedish Days.  

Jean Gaines, retired president (1977-2018) Geneva Chamber of Commerce

Back in the 60's, my friends and I would get money for carnival rides by collecting empty soda bottles, and bringing them to the Jewel, which was where Sav-Way Liquors is now. We would be given 2 cents apiece for turning the empties in so they could be cleaned and reused.  Carnival rides were 25 cents then, so we worked hard for our rides.  

Mike Simon, owner of The Little Traveler and long-time Geneva resident

Having grown up in Geneva and then moving back with my own family, Swedish Days is by far our favorite of Geneva's many lively festivals. It's a celebration of our town, of its rich history, and of its promising future.  

Strolling the bustling Third Street, you are guaranteed to always see someone you know. As teenagers (and far before cellphones and social media) we counted on this.

My favorite memory by far, is the grand parade on Sunday. Over the 40 years I have attended the festival, I have marched in several capacities- as a teenager with the GHS Dance Team, as a mom with my young children and as a board member with the Geneva Community Chest. However, my fondest memories of the parade are sitting on a blanket with four generations of our family. Helping my grandpa, a WWII veteran, rise from his lawn chair to salute the color guard. And it's exactly the family fun that Swedish Days represents.   

Johanna Patterson, long-time Geneva resident and volunteer

As owners of The Gift Box in Geneva, the Swedish Days Festival has been part of our lives since the day we were born.  Our relative, Edythe Anderson, the daughter of Swedish immigrants, opened The Gift Box in 1947 and helped in the creation of the festival itself when it was started in 1949.

As we grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, our family was always a strong presence in keeping the “Swedish” in Swedish Days.  We remember mom dressing us in traditional folk outfits every year and even having us participate in several parades and events.  After our father, Lennart, took over the business in the early 80’s, we continued to support this great festival as first generation Swedish immigrants ourselves.

Hans and Maria Jönsson, The Gift Box

Some of my favorite memories from Swedish days when I was a kid were visiting the craft tent for kids on the Courthouse lawn and attending the Kid's Day parade. The past couple of summers, I've enjoyed taking the kids I nanny back to my favorite spots.

Hallie McQueeny, Harrison Street School Kindergarten Teacher

Enjoy time honored traditions and exciting new features at this year’s fest. Visit genevachamber.com to find what memories you will make at the 70th Swedish Days.

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