KIMBALL, Wis. — The annual Midsummer Festival is set at Little Finland on Saturday.
The event celebrates the longest day of summer (which was actually on June 21), commemorated by many Scandinavian countries around the world.
Also called Juhannus, in celebration of St. John, the event focuses on bonfires that were lit to protect against evil spirits believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again.
At Little Finland on U.S. 2 in Kimball, the traditional bonfire is still lit, and according to Steve Schurtter, Little Finland board member, the event helps people enjoy summer.
"In northern European societies, summer was a little more than a couple of days on the calendar," Schurtter said. "They had celebrations, dancing and escaping from their hard lives."
After relocating to the United States, many Scandinavian descendants continued the tradition of celebrating midsummer.
"They would work hard in the woods and in the mines, and they had come from little or nothing when they moved here," Schurtter said. "They were far better off here, but the celebration also helped them escape for a little while, even though they knew reality was coming the next day."
This year, the event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. and features food, music and, of course, the bonfire. People can bring a dish to pass, but it is not required.
“You don't have to be Finn to come to Little Finland," Schurtter said. "Grab your lawn chair and come have a good time."
For more information, call Little Finland at 715-561-4360.