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Dust off your Nationelle drakten – that’s the national costume of Sweden – and get ready for some good old-fashioned family fun at the 45th annual Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival at Swede Hall on June 14-15, 2024. With a cornhole tournament, parade, games and lots of delicious Swedish and American fare, you’ll want to attend both days (no costumes are actually required)!

Swede Hall in Rochester will have activities, vendors, food and entertainment during the two-day festival. Photo courtesy: Swede Day Committee

History of Rochester, Washington, Swede Day

You may be wondering why Rochester, Washington, even has a Swede Day. According to the organizers, about 1,100 Nordic immigrants from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark settled in Independence Valley, seven miles from what would become Rochester, from 1890 to 1940.

“In 1920, an Order of Runeberg (OoR) was formed, and a hall on Independence Road, which was once used for the Swedish Finn Temperance Union, was used for their meeting and community gatherings,” shares the Swede Day Committee. “In 1939, as the group outgrew their current location, land was bought on Albany Street in Rochester and Swede Hall was built.”

Many years later, in 1968, Order membership had dwindled and the citizens of Grand Mound and Rochester purchased Swede Hall. After forming the Rochester Citizens Group – still in place today – they decided to use it as a community gathering place.

It was a local businessperson who came up with the idea of a day to celebrate the Nordic ancestors of the area. “The first years of Swede Day were centered on the parade and gathering at Swede Hall for a traditional Swedish Meatball lunch,” shares the Swede Day Committee. “Today, it is a full community event. All of Rochester is involved with activities for our guests.”

Now Swede Day is known as Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival. In its 45-year history, the festival has only been canceled once, in 2020 due to COVID-19. In 1980, it was postponed until July due to Mount Saint Helen’s erupting.

2024 Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival

Celebrate Swedish heritage at the 2024 Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival. Last year’s festival brought over 3,000 visitors. “Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival brings the small community together to celebrate our small-town charm,” shares the Swede Day Committee. “We cheer on our local students as they march in the parade. We gather at Swede Hall to feast on a Traditional Swedish Meatball Lunch, buy unique items from our local vendors, dance around the May Pole, play games and listen and see live entertainment.”

One of the highlights is the parade, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 15 at the corner of Paulson Street and Highway 12 in Rochester. The parade route is along Highway 12 to Albany Street, finishing at Swede Hall – 18543 Albany Street SW.

Before and after the parade a shuttle bus will be available to take visitors from the parade start at Paulson Street to Swede Hall, where the rest of the activities take place. Shuttle runs until 3 p.m.

Swede Day court 2024 posed for a photo with a blue digital frame with yellow roses around it
Rochester Swede Day Court 2024. Attend the court coronation on Friday, June 14, and enjoy free strawberry shortcake during Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival. Photo courtesy: Swede Day Committee

The Swede Day Court will be part of the parade. Each year, up to five students from Rochester High School’s junior class are selected to represent the court for the year. The students receive a generous scholarship for college or a trade school. They also represent the court at other parades throughout the year. “For many years, the royalty court wore traditional Swedish costumes handmade by our local seamstress Barbara Munsell,” shares the Swede Day Committee. “Current courts have requested modern wear.”

The court’s coronation happens Friday, June 14, at 6 p.m. and the event is free to the public. Attend and enjoy free strawberry shortcake.

Along with old favorites, the 2024 Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival will have a new Swedish Cookie Recipe Contest and a Pre-Swede Day Scavenger Hunt. Details can be found on the Swede Day website as the event draws closer.

Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival Saturday, June 15, 2024 Schedule Highlights

Swedish Pancake Breakfast 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. The first 200 guests receive a free breakfast thanks to Rochester Band Booster Club!

Parade 11 a.m.

Corn Hole Tournament 9 a.m. Entry fee $10. 3 p.m., entry fee $20. First place gets a set of professional cornhole bags with Bigfoot BBQ logo and Swede Hall logo. Tournaments also have cash payouts! The afternoon tournament will have cash and prizes. Sign up by emailing Brock at bigfootcornhole@yahoo.com. Payment is due on the day of the tournament.

Swede Hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with all kinds of vendors. There will also be an assortment of food to purchase, including hamburgers, hot dogs and tacos. Live entertainment will happen from 12: 30 p.m. to 3 p.m. And there will even be a table to make your own Swedish headdress.

For the adults, a Beer Garden will be open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the afternoon cornhole tournament with Bigfoot BBQ.

people lined up along with road, watching the Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival parade
Don’t miss the Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival parade happening at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, 2024. Photo courtesy: Swede Day Committee

If you are coming from out of town, check out Great Wolf LodgeFairfield Inn & Suites, or the Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel for a place to rest your head.

With delicious food – if you haven’t had Swedish pancakes before, you are really missing out – fun activities and entertainment, be sure to put the 2024 Rochester’s Swede Day Mid-Sommer Festival on your calendar. For more information, visit the Swede Hall website.

For more Thurston County activities, events and visitor information, visit the Experience Olympia & Beyond website.

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