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The Rev. Judy Johnson is on the hunt.

Not for mushrooms.

Or a bear.

Or even a great bargain.

Well, at least not today.

Instead, she’s been hunting for some good “Sven and Ole” or “Ole and Lena” jokes to tell at the Midsummer Festival.

For the 111th year — since 1907 — Elim Lutheran Church of rural Hooper is planning the annual festival.

Admission is free and the public is invited to the event which starts at 7:30 p.m. June 22. The church is located at 2312 Swaberg Road (County Road D), one mile east of U.S. Highway 77.

The Fremont TriTones, a vocal musical trio, will be the featured entertainment for festival, which includes a pie and ice cream social.

Johnson, the church’s pastor, will serve as mistress of ceremonies for the event.

This festival is one of many that founders of Elim Lutheran Church brought with them from Sweden when they started the church in 1871.

Midsummer has been celebrated in Sweden since the sixth century, A.D., states the publication, “Celebrating the Swedish Way.”

Since then, Midsummer bonfires have been lighted around Europe. Young people also enjoyed visiting holy springs, where they drank the healing water, played games and danced. These were a reminder of how John the Baptist baptized Christ in the Jordan River.

Throughout most of the world today, Midsummer Eve takes place between June 19 and 25.

Elim’s festival occurs on the Friday evening closest to June 21, the summer solstice.

Traditionally, the festival took place outdoors on the church grounds, followed by a pie and ice cream social.

“It used to always be held on the church lawn, where members would set up picnic tables, and where those attending would also bring lawn chairs,” Johnson said. “A few times, we would hurriedly have to move everything inside when rain came — and there have been more than a few hot and steamy evenings where mosquitoes had a feast.”

As the years have progressed, the Midsummer Festival has changed.

“Several years ago, the council made the decision to move the festival into the sanctuary that is air-conditioned and where we don’t have to worry about unplugging the sound system as wind and rain come down,” Johnson said. “We also have moved the pie and ice cream social into the church basement, which has been a good move.”

The event was cancelled last year, however, due to severe weather.

“This was one of few Midsummer Festivals that has had to be canceled throughout the years,” Johnson said.

Church members are looking forward to this year’s event and the Fremont TriTones are scheduled to sing.

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TriTones members Rose Parde, Cindy Wagner and Pam Spevak formed their trio in 2013.

Their specialty is performing music from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in the close harmony style of the Andrews Sisters. The trio’s Facebook page says members also like the music of the McGuire Sisters, Doris Day, Patty Page and Peggy Lee.

The group’s repertoire includes sacred and patriotic music. The trio has performed at events all around the Nebraska, including appearances at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.

Johnson encourages area residents to attend the festival.

“It’s a lovely tradition and reminder of the Scandinavian roots — both Swedish and Danish — of Elim families,” she said, adding, “Elim’s Midsummer Festival is so much fun. It reminds me of growing up in a time when people seemed to have more time to sit and visit and enjoy each other’s company.”

She noted other benefits.

“We have good family entertainment, and then we eat,” Johnson said. “It’s also fun to welcome people from all over the area who come to the Midsummer Festival.”

There’s another tradition as well.

“Every year, people share some ‘Ole and Lena’ or ‘Sven and Ole’ jokes that they know will be well-received,” she said.

As mistress of ceremonies, Johnson is supposed to tell some of these jokes, too, and adds that throughout the years people have been very gracious to laugh politely at her jokes.

But she wouldn’t mind a little help with the jokes this year.

“If anyone has any ‘Ole and Lena’ or ‘Sven and Ole’ jokes they’d like to share with me for this year’s festival, I’d love to see them,” Johnson said. “I’m sure those attending Elim’s Midsummer Festival would appreciate it, too!”

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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