Jan. 14, 2014
The Scandinavian Festival, which stimulated interest in Junction City's Scandinavian heritage and promoted goodwill and development since 1961, has been named an Oregon Heritage Tradition by the Oregon Heritage Commission.
The Scandinavian Festival is only the fifth event given the honor. The others include the Oregon State Fair, the Pendleton Round-Up, the Astoria Regatta and the Linn County Pioneer Picnic.
"The Heritage Commission wants to recognize those traditions that have helped define the state," said David Lewis, the commission's chair and historian for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. "They are distinguished events that are part of our heritage as Oregonians. This is certainly true of the Scandinavian Festival."
"The City of Junction City is honored that the Scandinavian Festival Association is receiving this designation from the commission," said Junction City Mayor David Brunscheon.
"It's a great feeling to know that all of the efforts that we volunteer towards making a difference in our community are recognized at the state level. We are proud to have played a role in shaping the identity of the state and hope to continue by carrying out this tradition for generations to come," added Mark Crenshaw, president of the Scandinavian Festival Association of Junction City.
The Scandinavian Festival began when the completion of I-5 took traffic off of Highway 99 that runs through the center of the city. The traffic shift devastated the city. That's when a young doctor, Gale Fletchall, convinced the town to hold its first festival to honor Danes who had settled there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and to attract visitors.
Organizers planned for 4,000 visitors over four days at the first Scandinavian Festival, but were scrambling for food and supplies by the second day as more than 10,000 visitors converged on the event. Today, an estimated 90,000-100,000 people attend the celebration in a town of 5,500. Festival activities, many of which have a Scandinavian theme, are organized by residents and organizations, which use the funds to support activities and facilities the rest of the year in Junction City.
An Oregon Heritage Tradition must have been in continuous operation for more than 50 years, demonstrate a public profile and reputation that distinguishes it from more routine events, and add to the livability and identity of the state, said commission coordinator Kyle Jansson.
The Oregon Heritage Commission coordinates efforts to solve statewide heritage issues through grants, education, and advocacy, and also promotes heritage tourism efforts.