Solveig's Guide to Syttende Mai

Solveig's guide to syttende Mai


Syttende Mai is Stoughton's annual Norwegian Heritage Festival - a weekend full of cultural events, parades, educational demonstrations, art shows, and more!

Syttende Mai is Norway's "Constitution Day," meaning "Seventeenth of May", and celebrates Norway's ratification of the constitution, which established Norway as its own indepedent nation. Stoughton, a center for Norwegian immigrants since the mid-1800s, started celebrating it's own Syttende Mai festival in the 1950s. Every year, a King, Queen, Prince and Princess of Syttende Mai is chosen from its residents who have contributed to the community, whom you'll see dressed in tradition Norwegian bunad costume at events throughout the weekend.

I have been attending Syttende Mai in Stoughton with my family since the 1980s, both sets of my grandparents having raised their families in Stoughton. We gathered at my grandmother's parents' Victorian home on S. 4th Street for an annual picnic where I played with cousins and 2nd cousins and more recently even 3rd cousins! My dad has been one of the writers of the annual Syttende Mai play at the Stoughton Village Players for as long as I can remember, and my dad has now recruited my husband as one of the writers as well. My mom and grandma typically wear their Norwegian bunads,  and last year as my whole family was in town, most everyone dressed in their bunads for the Norwegian fashion show.  

There are TONS of fun things to do over Syttende Mai Weekend, but here are a few of my favorites:

Stoughton village Players - broadcast snooze

Every Syttende Mai, the Village Players present a new original comedy production about the shenanigans that Norwegians Ole and Lena get themselves into. This year a big shot entertainment mogul schemes to acquire Stoughton's cable access channel STO-TV, but Lena knows she has to stop them. How? By cultivating a series of shows she think will save the station including a true crime show, kids show, home renovation show, and more. Family and kid-friendly, there are 7 performances most of which typically sell out. Tickets available for general admission seating at Did I mention my dad and husband were co-writers and you may spot my kiddo in one of the shows?

Stoughton Village Players Theater
255 E. Main St.

Thursday 7:00 & 8:30pm
Friday 7:00 & 8:30pm
Saturday 2:30, 4:00 & 7:00pm

rosmaling exhibit and sale

Rosemåling is a Norwegian heritage art of folk painting. Translating as "rose painting" or "flower painting" on traditional or modern wooded objects including plates, bowls, trunks, and more. Walk through the exhibit to view prize-winning art and some available for purchase.

United Methodist Church Lower Level, 525 Lincoln Ave - use back entrance

Friday 9:00am - 4:00pm
Saturday 9:00am - 4:00pm
Sunday 9:00am - 12:00pm

stoughton norwegian dancers

The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers are a high school group performing traditional Norwegian and Scandinavian folk dances in traditional bunad costume. They are entertaining and often funny dances with a lot of acrobatics. It's a must to see at least one performance Syttende Mai weekend.

Saturday Performances
Division and Main Street ∙ 2pm
Stoughton High School Gym ∙ 3:45pm
Stoughton High School Gym ∙ 5:30pm (with Alumni)

Sunday Peformance
Stoughton High School Gym ∙ 3:45pm (Final Show)


Another annual tradition is the canoe race that is one of the kickoff events Friday night. 50+ canoes load into the Yahara River north of Stoughton and race toward downtown. At 7:00pm you can watch them portage at Division Street Park (canoers have to pull over and carry their canoes around the Division St bridge and then back in the Yahara to finish the race). There can be a lot of slipping and sliding at the portage and many canoers dress up in Viking or other costumes. 

Division Street Park, N. Division and Forton St.

Friday 7:00pm

norwegian parade

What is a festival without a parade? Syttende Mai weekend culimates in the Parade on Sunday through historic downtown Stoughton where spectators will view Norwegian royalty past and present (the current and former Kings and Queens of Syttende Mai), local businesses and organizations, Stoughton school groups, cultural and performing groups, and more. Kids can expect to get some candy and trinkets from parade participants. Head downtown early to "reserve" a parade viewing spot with a blanket or chairs. Keep in mind the north side of the street is sunny and the south is shaded (if it's a hot, sunny day!).

Main Street, Stoughton (Parade starts at S. 4th St. and heads westbound down Main St.)

Sunday 1:30pm


Posted by Solveig Schroerlucke on
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