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The festival, which was established by the late Professor Armour Nelson and the late John Nordberg, promotes the Scandinavian heritage of California Lutheran University and maintains relationships with a variety of Cal Lutheran constituencies in Scandinavian-American communities. Professor Nelson and John Nordberg both passed away before the festival’s inception. The event was first intended to be a celebration of the establishment of the institution and the history of the Conejo Valley, which was initially colonized in the 1890s by Norwegians.
Swedish-American In 1973, while playing golf at a course not too far from the campus, Nelson and Nordberg, a Norwegian-American, came up with the notion. Nelson, a member of the academic staff and an archivist, had ambitions of exhibiting the rare Scandinavian books in his collection. The wonderfully gorgeous campus was something that Nordberg, the director of Development, wanted to highlight to the larger Los Angeles community. Both of these gentlemen wanted to honor their own and the school’s Scandinavian heritage.
In a letter that he wrote and delivered ten years after the school had its first Scandinavian Festival, Nelson detailed the history of the event that was first referred to as Scandinavian Day. The following is an excerpt from a statement made by Nelson: “I advised John that I believed an open house exhibit with an academic presentation on specific Scandinavian themes might enlighten people about our Scandinavian origin. He continued by saying, “John appreciated the quality of the performance and immediately suggested including folk dancers and a smorgsbord.”
A committee was formed to prepare for the event on campus on February 9, 1974. There was a small display of Scandinavian art and rare books and food, dancing, and music. Around 600 people attended the event. In addition to that, there were consuls present from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. The college’s new gymnasium was a repurposed airplane hangar that had been moved onto the grounds after decommissioning an airport in the immediate vicinity. The inaugural banquet was held there. Read the next article.
The event has developed to the point that it currently takes place in several settings over the breathtakingly lovely university campus. The Samuelson Chapel and several other surrounding Cal Lutheran sites host many other exhibitions and activities. Other exhibitions and events are presented at Samuelson Chapel and neighboring Cal Lutheran buildings. The Festival Stage and children’s craft sections are located outside Kingsmen Park. The vendor booths are located on Memorial Parkway.
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