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Swedish Days – still strong after 68 years!

May 02, 2017 12:28PM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

Photo courtesy The Gift Box

The kick-off to summer, for me, has always been Swedish Days.  This year’s fest, supported by Northwestern Medicine, will be June 20-25.   I could write about favorites such as the carnival, once-a-year food booth treats or the free entertainment (the line-up this year is spectacular).  I could highlight all the kids’ activities offered during the week, the return of our 5K Lopp Run or the exciting units in the Grand Parade, but I am doing something different. 

This issue of Geneva Neighbors is about family business.  We are so fortunate to have many generationally owned businesses in Geneva.  The current owners have seen decades of Swedish Days, so why not let them tell you in their own words why they enjoy Swedish Days, our community festival that continues to garner national exposure and win Best Fest awards year after year.

Back in the 60's, my friends and I would get money for carnival rides by collecting empty soda bottles, and bringing them to the Jewel, which was where Sav-Way Liquors is now. We would be given 2 cents apiece for turning the empties in so they could be cleaned and reused. Carnival rides were 25 cents then, so we worked hard for our rides.  Mike Simon, The Little Traveler

I just remember always looking forward to Swedish Days….walking from my home to downtown with my girlfriends  for Midnight Madness, Sidewalk sales, the Entertainment on Third Street and the Carnival. The grand finale of the week being the Parade and the Drum and Bugle competitions which we attended with our neighbors.  Those were always must attends!

Some favorite shops were the Fig Leaf & Discover Shop, and the Teen Shop.   My parents business was just located in the downtown area from their basement and Stevens Street when I was a teenager.  I can remember stacking carpet samples to sell for our sidewalk sales. Lisa Carlson Nelson, Carlson’s Flooring

Since the 1960’s I remember going to Good Templar Park on Father’s Day every year (editor’s note:  the Sunday before Swedish Days in downtown Geneva began)  My mom and dad would help cook and serve Swedish food and baked goods.  They enjoyed speaking Swedish with their friends. It was the start of Swedish Days for us. The Swedish service, games, pony rides.  Raising of the May Pole has always been one of my favorites.   My parents and many dressed up in their Swedish Customs and danced around it with traditional Swedish music playing. Ingrid Erikson Rowlett, I.B. Quality Cabinets

During the 1960s and 1970s, our family dressed up in Swedish folk costumes during Geneva’s Annual Swedish Days event.  We were photographed many times and appeared in local papers.  

Edythe Anderson, opened the store in 1947.  In those days, single woman didn’t start businesses, but she was independent, head strong and determined.  She had a real love and appreciation of Scandinavian design, and incorporated many Swedish products into her initial selection. 

In 1958 Lennart Jönsson started working in the store after emigrating from Sweden in 1954. He took full ownership in 1984 after Edythe retired.  Under Lennart’s guidance, The Gift Box became a store focused on Scandinavian products and food. 

After Lennart passed, we became owners and continue to sell the same products.  The store is a remnant from Geneva’s Swedish immigrant population.  So many other Swedish businesses have disappeared including, a smorgasbord restaurant called Karin’s Tearoom, a Swedish butcher shop (Ira Johnson) and a Scandinavian/European bakery.  Everyone used to dress up for Swedish Days.  Those who did not have authentic Swedish folk costumes made their own clothing.  Maria and Hans Jönsson, The Gift Box

Laura Rush is the communications manager of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

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