There’s a reason you see so many surnames ending with “-son” and “-sen” in Utah phone books: An estimated 650,000 residents of the state—26 percent of the population—trace their ancestry to the early Mormon converts from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. And every year, many of them gather in Sanpete County to celebrate that heritage.
For more than 30 years, the Scandinavian Heritage Festival in Ephraim has provided a place for all the “sen”s & “dottir”s of Scandinavia to get together. In part, it’s a great party. Entertainers like the band Venlige Fremmede, Snow College’s Cadence vocal group and the Snow College Youth Dance Conservatory showcase the music and dance of Scandinavia; Friday features a gourmet smorgasbord; Old World craft booths feature authentic demonstrations of blacksmithing, pottery and decorative painting; Saturday morning features the annual parade. And, in the tradition of the great Hans Christian Andersen, Friday and Saturday feature gifted storytellers like Andrew Clark and Valerie Meade conveying the great tales and legends of Scandinavian lands. (The unidentified storyteller in the photo above is from 2009.)
But while there’s plenty of time for celebration, the festival is also an educational opportunity. Thursday evening and Friday morning are all about the Scandinavian Heritage Conference, a free series of lectures and discussions about the region’s pioneer history. Learn about the foundation of higher education in the Sanpete Valley, in addition to other details about the early European settlers. You’ll find something fun or educational every day until the “sen” sets.