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Picture from the Past: Geneva celebrates 70 years of Swedish Days

Geneva’s first Swedish Days festival, 1949. Left to right: Evelyn Lencioni, William C. Wood, Clara Brelsford and Delores Anderson in front of the First National Bank building at State and Second Street.
Geneva’s first Swedish Days festival, 1949. Left to right: Evelyn Lencioni, William C. Wood, Clara Brelsford and Delores Anderson in front of the First National Bank building at State and Second Street.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Swedish Days. In 1949, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a Swedish-themed summer festival to attract visitors. Named for the community’s Swedish heritage, the festival coincided with Good Templar Park’s annual one-day midsummer celebration known as “Svenskarnas Dag” or “Swedish Day.”áContests were held for the best Swedish costumes, both authentic and originals.

The festival changed names and themes over the next decade. In 1952, it was simply “Geneva Days” without the Swedish theme. Promoted as a gigantic midsummer sale, signs were put in display windows advertising bargains, contests and giveaways. The Merra-Lee Shop display encouraged people to guess the number of hangers in their five windows for a chance to win a silverware set, but the contest attracting the most attention was sponsored by Wayne Drug Store. It featured peculiar written messages which druggists had received. The prize for the most correctly interpreted notes was a Wedgewood china set. The messages included “ecsh Leksx” (“Ex Lax”) and “bottl Madked Ackhull” (“Bottle of Medicated Alcohol.”) In 1958 the Swedish theme was revived and continues to be a regular event.

Celebrate the longevity of this festival by taking a Geneva History Museum guided trolley tour to learn more about Geneva and Swedish Days history. Tours depart from Third and James Streets every hour 11 a.m.– 4 p.m. June 18 – June 20. Admission is $10 per person and includes a free museum pass and a goodie bag with offers from Geneva shops and restaurants. For more information, visit www.GenevaHistoryMuseum.org.

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