AUGUSTA — The winters in Sweden are long and dark, and the summer sun is fairly short-lived, conditions which many Mainers might say describes those two seasons pretty well here, too.

So why not celebrate the longest day of summer as the Swedes do? That would be with a Midsommar Celebration, a traditional Swedish celebration of the lightest, longest days of the summer, between June 21 and 24, starting with the summer solstice.

“After a long, hard, cold winter, this is all about celebrating the summer, the daylight, flowers and babies and crops. … Just celebrate the life summer brings,” said Vicki Quist, who came from New Hampshire with her husband, Brian, and daughter Hunter for the Midsommar Celebration, which her brother-in-law hosted in Augusta.

In this case, the celebrating took place at the home and Church Hill Road business of Augusta residents Lindy Howe and Kevin Quist — complete with a romp around the maypole and visits with sled dogs.

OK, so maybe sled dogs don’t exactly scream “summer” — or even “Sweden,” for that matter. But to the couple who recently moved to Augusta from Stockholm — the Aroostook County town of Stockholm, that is, not the city in Sweden — they fit.

Quist, whose grandfather came to America from Sweden as a young boy, and Howe own Heywood Kennels, which offers dog sled rides, training and other adventures. When the business was in Stockholm, tours of the kennels and visits with their 30 or so sled dogs became part of Stockholm’s Midsummer Celebration. In Stockholm and other “Swedish Colony” towns in northern Maine, including Stockholm and New Sweden, the Midsummer Celebration is a big deal, with much of the community, many of them of Swedish descent, coming together to party. Quist said to Swedes, the event is as big as, and maybe bigger than, Christmas.

“We wanted to bring that tradition here,” Quist said as about 20 people, mostly relatives and friends, chatted during the Midsommar Celebration and open house at Heywood Kennels Saturday afternoon.

Participants joined in two circles around a leaf-covered maypole, which Howe, who is not of Swedish descent but has visited Sweden, said is a symbol of fertility. Each of the two circles of people held hands as they spun in opposite directions, laughing as they went. Most decorated their hair with bands of flowers.

By tradition, Howe said, girls prepare for the celebration by collecting flowers for their headbands and wear them when they sleep the night before the event. Whoever they dream of, the myth goes, will be their future spouse.

The dogs didn’t seem particularly interested in the goings-on, sitting silently in their fenced-in area — until Quist walked out of his barn with a pair of leashes, which set the dogs off into a barking, pacing frenzy, as they saw an opportunity to get out and exercise and visit.

“They’re saying ‘pick me, pick me,” Quist said of his Alaskan huskies. “People ask how we train the dogs to run. You don’t have to train them to run; they love to run. Sometimes the training is getting then to stop.”

Quist offers both winter sled dog tours, on sleds he makes himself in his workshop, and summer rides in sleds equipped with wheels. More information is available by calling 629-9260 or emailing [email protected]

In Sweden the festival is called Midsommar, and is a national holiday. Houses are decorated inside and out with wreaths and flower garlands. Swedes then dance around the decorated midsummer pole while listening to traditional folk songs. In Sweden, as in many other countries, the celebration includes bonfires and traditional foods such as pickled herring and drinks including vodka. Neither of those particular items was on hand Saturday in Augusta. Vegetable trays and water took their place.

Quist, who joked that the celebration is on one of the few days of the year when Swedes take off their long underwear, said they hope to host a bigger Midsommar Celebration next year.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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