As we inch closer to summer, outdoor festivals are starting to pop up on our radar again. These annual family-friendly events offer great opportunities to try new things and explore surrounding Dane County communities. Two cities south of Madison are gearing up for a weekend full of music, food, and fun from May 18-20: Stoughton and Fitchburg.
Even if you can't claim any Norwegian ancestry, Stoughton will have you embracing potato lefse, rosemaling painting, and Hardanger fiddle in no time. These are just a few traditions of this city's festival, which celebrates Norway's May 17th Constitution Day or Syttende Mai.
Meet the festival royalty during the opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday with music by local students. Then, head to the Yahara River to watch (or participate in) the canoe race. The festival king and queen, along with the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers, will be in full costume wearing colorful bunads around the festival grounds. The dancers will perform multiple times Saturday and Sunday, including during the 66th annual parade that begins at Mandt Park at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Be sure to stop by the craft beer and music tent, along with the numerous food stands offering Norwegian specialties. Other events include an arts and crafts fair at River Bluff Middle School, where you will also be able to meet Norsk Buhund dogs, Jærhøn chickens, and Fjord horses. You can play bingo at the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge, meet Scandinavian artisans and musicians at Chorus Public House, and listen to performances by the Edvard Grieg Chorus. To really get steeped in the history and culture, head to the Norwegian Heritage Center known as Livsreise (meaning "life's journey) at 277 W. Main St.
And if you're looking to break a sweat or if you enjoy watching athletic competitions, be sure to head to the festival on Saturday. That morning starts with a 20-mile run or 17-mile walk from Madison to Mandt Park in Stoughton, or you can pick the 10-mile run from Dunn or the 2-mile run/walk geared for kids from Fox Prairie Elementary School. Afterwards, check out the Viking Games strongman competition from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When: Noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday Where: McKee Farms Park, Fitchburg Info:www.fitchburgdays.com
If the kids have been craving carnival rides, McKee Farms Park is the place to go this weekend. The Fitchburg Days festival will feature Rainbow Valley Rides each afternoon and evening, with a wristband special on Sunday. A children's tent with arts, crafts, and other fun activities will be open from 4-8 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a Hurling Club of Madison demonstration from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Local food vendors offering tasty treats include the Fitchburg Optimists Club, Pots-n-Tots, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds, Schultz's Sugar River Kettle Corn, and Toast Food Cart.
Main stage evening music acts will have a $7 cover charge and will feature Pat McCurdy on Friday and Pilot on Saturday.
And while you're at the park, be sure to check out the "Bike the Burg" Bucky on Parade statue near the pond.