One of the great things about visiting the Oregon Coast is during the summer there are all kinds of various events held depending on where you decide to visit. The coast itself is lovely though the drive on Hwy 101 can be a bit maddening at times (just depends on where you go and what time you get there) with summer traffic in full bloom for the next few months.
But traffic congestion notwithstanding, every June in the picturesque town of Astoria, a Mid-Summer Scandinavian Festival occurs which you can check out at www.astoriascanfest.com. The event was held a couple weekends ago and while it had been a few years since we last visited, it was still worth a drive up to Astoria to spend time learning about the five main countries which the organization proudly represents through the various artisan booths, vendors and activities displayed and open to the public over the weekend of June 21 – 23 of this month.
While the main countries covered were Finland, Norway Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, I felt a bit insulted that the country where my husband is from was not included and has never been included: the country of Estonia. While people may argue that Estonia is not just a people of Scandinavian heritage, history has clearly shown that this small, independent country has been plundered and invaded by countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Germany and most recently, Russia. So while there may be a mixture of various Caucasian ethnicities, it with the Vikings that Estonian bloodlines are most notably related.
While Estonia may never ever be considered part of the Scandinavian Festival held in Astoria each year, we did find a lot of interesting booths to look at and appreciate such as lovely hand-crafted pottery, hard-carved wooden sculptures and every day household items like cookware and kitchen utensils. There were also vendors who sold clothing items, fun collectibles and throughout each day, the organization scheduled various activities throughout the weekend like a Queen’s Coronation, Icelandic Horses display and of course delicacies of sweet treats, delicious meals like the Midnight Sun Breakfast and a Viking Dinner event.
We visited on a Saturday morning but it was about a 2.5 hour drive since we reside in the Willamette Valley. By the time we got there, we missed out on the Midnight Sun Breakfast but it was OK – we had that on our first visit four years ago. This time, we wanted to browse more through all the vendor booths and discovered that there were some things my husband was able to find that normally he could only find back in Estonia: like European chocolates. Yum!
Chocolates weren’t the only kind of sweet treats there, but I was more interested in the food – the real food that they were serving. There were booths with homemade cookies, breads, crackers and other great snacks but the food plates being sold were pretty good as well. They had pastry snack “pies” which basically were like Cornish pies or similar to piroshki, the Russian equivalent except these Scandinavian pies were savory fillings like smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham and cheese or even a vegetarian option of spinach and feta cheese wrapped in a pie crust dough. Looked scrumptious. Forgot the Scandinavian word for it but they were like meat pies such as the ones pictured below.
However, we opted to share a lunch plate called the Viking Plate: Swedish meatballs, small potatoes, red cabbage with a roll. Below is kind of what we had for the Viking plate (they gave more meatballs) and they gave us two tiny little potatoes (mashed would’ve been better) however, the whole thing was quite generous so it was perfect for the two of us (besides, we pigged out on the other goodies too).
I also indulged in the Swedish pancakes – which were fluffy crepes stuffed with a choice of ligonberry, strawberry or marionberry (hey, this did take place in Oregon) preserves. Then topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. Since we walked around for at least a couple hours, I justified enjoying this sweet dessert with much satisfaction.
These photos are included here to give you an idea of what I had since I was so enjoying the food, the sites, the music, the dances…I completely forgot to take pictures with my phone. If you have ever sampled Scandinavian fare, it is really quite simple and not too fancy like French cuisine is but the flavors are either sweet, savory, salty or starchy. Estonian food is similar which is why we wanted to return to visit this festival and experience it one more time.
Now there are several other cities in Oregon that hold their own Scandinavian Festival but the one in Astoria is quite memorable and people from all over, including overseas, will attend such an event as this – and why not? It is a cultural display of the Scandinavian heritage that came upon the Pacific Northwest shores decades ago to establish themselves in North America and set roots on new land for their families and generations ahead.
Traveling up and down the Oregon coast will bring you delightful sites and scenery not just in the various towns but in it is people, it is various cultures and of course, the sampling of fantastic food (which I confess, is always my favorite part of attending an event like this) because it makes it worth a round trip of 5 hours – which is a pretty good way to spend a day with my own Estonian Viking.
So if you have a sense of adventure, love to explore, have a sense of curiosity that needs to be satisfied, then take a trip this annual festival next June and go visit Astoria – even if you’re 50 or older, be a kid again and take time to explore the world around you – it is worth the trip.