Lindsborg, Kansas: Little Sweden

Adorable! That was the first thought that crossed my mind as we approached Lindsborg. I had been there before, but I was so young I don’t remember anything about it. This weekend is “Svensk Hyllningsfest” though – literally translated as “Swedish Celebration Party” – and is only celebrated on odd years. I actually know 3 girls from this small town of only 3,500, and they were posting information like crazy about it, so I decided it was time to give Lindsborg another visit.

The main draw for me was the Smorgasbord – a giant buffet dinner. Not one to shy away from weird food, the idea of trying pickled herring and “fish jello” intrigued me, so I jumped on buying my ticket before they were sold out – the 5pm and 6pm settings sold out fast, so I got tickets for the last remaining, 8pm setting. I had no idea who would go with me when I bought the tickets, but after mentioning it to my friend Mike, he selflessly offered to take the ticket. My mom came along too, but she didn’t want to eat that late, so she decided she would just hang out at “the fest” while we ate – this ended up not quite working out that way…

Immediately after parking the car, a woman walked by and Mike asked her if we were close to “the fest” and she said she thought it was probably all wrapped up by that hour – it was 6pm. We were confused and walked down to Main Street only to find a deserted street. There were a couple of places that had 2 or 3 people standing in front of them, and we realized they were art galleries. Having just driven an hour to get to Lindsborg and having 2 hours to kill before our dinner we went into the little galleries and stores. I was surprised at how many super original, artsy galleries and stores this tiny town had. Apparently a National Geographic photographer is a Lindsborg native and we got to see one of his displays all on my beloved Scotland. Each little place was just so cute and unique!

We also meandered on down to the Lutheran church because we heard that a “not to be missed” men’s chorus was singing there. On the walk, I was struck by just how much town pride there is in Lindsborg. I’ve been to a lot of small towns in Kansas, and I lived in one for a year and a half, and I have never seen one like this. Most small towns are becoming ghost towns with lots of empty store fronts, and most houses boasting multiple dead cars in the yard, and porches full of years of crap. This whole town, on the contrary, is meticulously kept up, and each home had the cutest little fall vignette: pumpkins, hay bales, corn stalks, all artfully arranged around the porch or door. The Lutheran church was no exception.

Considered “Little Sweden” we also saw the orange dala horses adorning every house, and decorating Main Street. I just loved the community feel of the place – you could just tell that these people were proud of their town, their roots, and supported each other.

When it came time for dinner, I felt bad leaving mom to wander the streets alone, but she thought she would check out the “Ol Stuga” bar, so we set off to Bethany College. It was fun to see so many people in traditional Swedish dress, and all the traditional Swedish food laid out. There was potato salad, and boiled eggs, and cole slaw, and smoked salmon, and pickled herring, and fish jello, and boiled potatoes and Swedish meatballs, and potato sausage, and cookies, and tea ring, and a million other items. There was one dish in particular no one at our table could determine what it was. It was a magenta color and seemed to be some sort of fish base, and was to be eaten on bread. We finally asked our waitress and she told us it was Sill Salad, and she had made it. It was a mixture of beef, fish, beets, onions, and some other ingredients all pureed together. It was definitely interesting. My least favorite of all was the fish jello – definitely fishy and jello-y. My favorite was probably the meatballs.

At the end of the dinner we mentioned to two of the ladies at our table that we needed to go get my mom and they asked where she was. When we replied she was at the “Ol Stuga” they responded with, “At this hour?!” in such a way that one might be led to believe that “Ol Stuga” was Swedish for “town whore.” It made me rush to find her even more.

In the end I was extremely disappointed by Svensk Hyllningsfest, but happily surprised by the town of Lindsborg itself. I’m sure Svensk Hyllningsfest is fun while it’s happening, but I just couldn’t believe that by 6pm it was totally over. Since I work during the days Fridays and Saturdays I got there as early as I could, but it just wasn’t early enough. For being a Friday AND a festival weekend, I just expected there to be a little bit more happening. However, the town was so adorable, and the people so proud of it, I couldn’t be too upset about the whole deal, and am still really happy I made the trip. I actually wanna go back now on a normal weekend just to have more time to wander around and shop.

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