Swede for a Day

I am a quarter Swedish, a quarter French, a quarter German, and a quarter Norwegian—a true ‘mutt.’ And while I take pride in every last bit of my ethnicity, the part I most identify with is Swedish.

I think this is because my grandma was so proud to be a full-blooded Swede (her home was filled with blue and yellow flags, Välkommen signs, and those traditional bright red Dalahäst (Dala) horses) and because my uncle married a wonderful Swedish woman, Agneta, who still has family and close friends in Stockholm and returns multiple times a year. I hope to visit Sweden some day with her as my trusty tour guide. 

Gammelgarden MuseumTurns out I don’t need to travel 4,300 miles from Minneapolis to Stockholm in order to get a taste of my Swedish heritage though. I can travel 10 miles from my parents’ house in Forest Lake to the town of Scandia, believed to be the first Swedish immigrant settlement in the state of Minnesota, way back in 1850, to the Gammelgården Museum’s “Immigrant for a Day” event happening this Sunday, May 26, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Gammelgården, which means “Old Farm” in Swedish, is the only open-air museum devoted to Swedish immigration in the country. The free event includes visiting the carefully preserved and restored Välkommen Hus (visitor center), Präst Hus (parsonage), GammelKyrkan (old church), ladugård (barn), Immigrant Hus and Swedish Stuga (cottage) on the 11-acre site. There will be activities in and around the five historic buildings, recreating what life was like on the small farm back in the 1800s. Participants may be hauling water to the Immigrant Hus, packing a trunk for Amerika, making butter, doing laundry, or playing games at “recess” in the school yard. Visitors are encouraged to come dressed in period costume and bring a picnic lunch, but either way, everyone is welcome. 

The museum is owned by the Elim Lutheran Church, and has preserved, presented, and promoted Swedish immigrant heritage and history since 1972.

For more information about the event, visit the Gammelgarden Museum’s website or call 651-433-5053. Free parking is available.