Lefse is more
July 30, 2013
By Hailey Way
Festival celebrates Scandinavian cultures
Craft booths featuring colorful Scandinavian clothing and artwork dotted Issaquah’s Veterans’ Memorial Field July 26 as a live accordion played classic Danish, Norwegian and Swedish folksongs.
The occasion was the first-ever Lefse Fest, offering a generous dose of Nordic traditions including a maypole dance, arts and crafts and food specialties. The centerpiece was lefse, a much beloved delicacy.
Lefse is a flatbread — rather like a soft tortilla — that originated in Norway and is usually made of some combination of flour, cream and potatoes.
Leiann Ronnestad, president of the Sons of Norway, Cascade Lodge, coordinated the event with help from the Barneleikarringen Cultural Foundation in hopes of uniting the Eastside’s Scandinavian community.
“It’s our very first time having this festival,” Ronnestad said. “We have a great crowd so far.”
Most of the clothing and accessories on display were made of Scandinavian-centric fabrics.
“We tried to add a few Nordic patterns with the cup cozies and aprons,” said Nancy Sunde, a craft vendor. “I use the rest of these supplies year around.”
Other craftwork included traditional dancer crowns of Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian origins. At another booth, Christmas ornaments woven out of wheat strands reflected the frugal approach Scandinavians had for their materials.
“Scandinavians hung onto everything. Wherever they grew grains, they could weave,” said Jean Whipple, of Woven Traditions. “They didn’t throw anything out.”
Inside the Issaquah Valley Senior Center, more Sons of Norway volunteers, including the Skogsblomman Lodge, stayed busy preparing more lefse. In addition to the flatbread, a lunch of split pea soup and Scandinavian sandwiches — open-faced and buttered — were being served.
Common lefse is served plain or rolled with butter, though a sweet version can be made by adding cinnamon-sugar, jam or brown sugar. Another popular sweet treat is krumkake, a Norwegian waffle-esque cookie.
“Krumkake is very similar to a pizzelle,” said Carol Hansen, Sons of Norway volunteer. “They are a little thicker, but compare almost the same in the recipe.”
The highlight of the Lefse Festival was decorating the maypole. After several traditional outdoor dances, children let loose to decorate an ivy-covered maypole cross. The field then opened up to welcome people of all ages to join in the traditional maypole folk dance. The kids dancing were part of a group called Risadala.
The group’s name comes from the words “risa” and “dala,” translating to “horse dance,” from the Swedish symbol of the Dalecarlian horse, Ronnestad said.
The festival continued into the afternoon with a raffle drawing for homemade kransekake, a Danish and Norwegian style of cake, often made for special occasions. It is a wheat cake combined with ground almonds and sprinkled with a glaze.
Ronnestad said she was enthused about the high turnout at the event and hopes to have more Scandinavian-themed festivals in the future. Those will be slated for the winter holidays and the midsummer (summer solstice), she said.
Hailey Way is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.