By Tom and Patti Burkett
We were looking forward to a stop in Lindsborg, Kansas. Many of Tom’s ancestors are Swedish, and we maintain a number of Swedish traditions, especially around holidays. There are a number of Scandinavian heritage towns in the Midwest, and this is one of the most enthusiastic. It was clear from the moment we turned the corner on Main Street that something was happening.
The sidewalks were crowded, businesses had storefront displays, and two things that looked like walking sandwiches were strutting down the street. I typed into Google search – Lindsborg, events, and today’s date. It came back with one word in Swedish. “Oh my gosh,” said Tom when I showed it to him, “I had no idea, It’s Vaffeldagen!”
Waffle Day is a particularly Swedish tradition. The story goes that it began because the name sounds very much like Vårfrudagen, a religious holiday we in the USA call Annunciation Day. Swedes love to celebrate, for any reason, and who could pass up a hot waffle in the waning days of winter? The costumed ambassadors we saw were. of course, waffles, not sandwiches. They wandered up and down through the crowds handing out coupons and posing for pictures. Every shop in town had some waffle themed promotion.
The town’s several restaurants each offered up a take on the classic waffle, and even the bar was offering waffle shots. We passed a man in a horned Viking helmet and carrying a wicked looking axe. His t-shirt read “That which doesn’t kill me had better run!” A corner table was offering free coffee and cookies. As we sat and watched and sipped, I remembered Tom’s grandmother saying, “It takes a lot less water than you think to make a good cup of coffee.” Clearly, the makers of this brew followed that advice.
Whether or not you’re fortunate enough to be in Lindsborg on March 25, there’s still plenty to see here. the Hemslojd shop sells traditional Swedish decor. You can have your name and greeting hand painted on a Dalarna horse to decorate your front porch. Pick up some tomtens to bring good luck to your RV. Watch artisans carving and painting. Walk the Valkommen Trail and learn about the town’s early settlement by families from the old country.
Don’t miss the Birger Sandzen Gallery. This prolific artist came from Sweden in 1894 to serve on the faculty at Bethany College, where he taught until 1946. Rest a while in the Bethany Lutheran Church, eat Swedish meatballs at the 3 Crowns Restaurant, and take selfies with the many uniquely painted Dalarna horses scattered throughout out the town.
Before you leave, drive a few miles out of town to Coronado Heights. Legend has it that this hill, with breathtaking views across the Kansas prairie, is where the Spanish explorer gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and turned back to Mexico. Spanish chain mail has been found in nearby archaeological digs. The hill is capped with a fort-like shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, and features several nice hiking trails.
Lindsborg is only one of many small towns in the Plains and upper Midwest that celebrate a particular ethnic heritage. Protivin, Iowa was settled by Czech immigrants. Stoughton, Wisconsin is still home to many Norwegian families. Greeley, Nebraska promotes its Irish history. Each of these is a doorway into a world of food, history, and culture that makes it unique and worth a visitor’s time and attention. Come explore Europe in the heartland of the United States. We’ll share our waffles if you show up at just the right time, out here off the beaten path.