Minnesota’s first known Swedish immigrants settled in Scandia in 1850, and it was this general area that Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg described in his famous series of novels about famine-stricken peasants leaving the homeland to start a new life in Minnesota.
The town, which chose the ancient name for Scandinavia as its own, clings tightly to its Swedish roots with cultural festivals, museums, and a few Dala horses decorating downtown.
The Gammelgården (20880 Olinda Trl., 651/433-5053, tours offered hourly 1–3 p.m. Fri.–Sun. May–Oct., gift shop open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1 a.m.–4 p.m. Sun. year-round, $4 adults), on the south side of town, is a museum of Swedish immigration with half a dozen furnished buildings from the mid-19th century. These include an 1855 immigrant house, the oldest existing Lutheran church in Minnesota (built in 1856), and an 1879 barn filled with old farming tools.
The historical park also hosts the Midsommar Dag (Midsummer Day) arts-and-crafts festival the fourth Sunday in June, Spelmansstämma music festival the third Saturday in August, a lutefisk dinner the third Thursday in November, and the traditional Lucia Christmas celebration on the Sunday closest to December 13th.
Just south of town, along Highway 3, is the Hay Lake School Museum (651/433-4014, www.wchsmn.org, 1–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun. May–Oct., plus Fri. in summer, $5 adults). When built in 1896 the redbrick one-room schoolhouse was quite fancy, which reflects the value the state’s Scandinavian immigrants placed on education. The barn-shaped building in back is the Johannes Erickson Log Cabin, built in 1868 and now furnished as a Swedish immigrant might have done.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition