Upcoming Events › Ethnic
May 14, 2021 – May 16, 2021
Stoughton’s Syttende Mai festival is a weekend-long celebration of Norwegian heritage featuring fun activities and cultural experiences for the whole family. Check out three days of parades, amazing food and drink, arts and music, athletic competitions, and kids’ activities steeped in centuries of Norwegian culture.
The city-wide festival takes place every year on the weekend closest to Norway’s May 17th Constitution Day, also known as Syttende Mai. After being cancelled in 2020, the festivities are scheduled to resume in 2021 on the dates of Friday, May 14th through Sunday, May 16th.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Stoughton enjoyed an influx of Norwegians, and at one time, as many as 75 percent of its residents spoke Norwegian. These immigrants celebrated Syttende Mai unofficially, but it became an annual, city-wide tradition in the 1950s.
Festival activities include:
- Stoughton Norwegian Dancers
- 20-Mile Run, 10-Mile Run, 17-Mile Walk, and Lil’ Community Run
- Hardanger Fiddle Performances
- Norwegian Heritage Center (Livsreise)
- Live Norwegian Art Demonstrations
- Edvard Grieg Chorus at the Stoughton Opera House
- Norse Costume Style Show
- Viking Games Strongman Competition
- Craft Beer Tent
- Traditional Norwegian Delicacies
- Food Trucks
- Youth Parade (Saturday)
- Norwegian Parade (Sunday)
- Canoe Race & Portage on the Yahara River
- Stoughton Village Players Theater Original Presentation
- Arts & Crafts Fair
Syttende Mai Festival Address:
via Stoughton Chamber of Commerce
532 E. Main Street
Stoughton, WI 53589
More details below!
Stoughton Norwegian Dancers
This dance troupe delights audiences with their intricate footwork, athleticism, and enthusiasm for traditional Norwegian culture. Around since 1952 and clad in traditional Norwegian costumes, or bunad, their dancing to music from the fjords, and their colorful and captivating performances are in demand nationwide. You’ll be able to see the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers and their traditional folk performances every day during the three-day Syttende Mai festival.
Other Live Performances
While enjoying all the Syttende Mai sights and delicious foods, don’t forget to experience the music, dance, and theater performances. Be sure to catch a Norwegian Dancer performance to experience Scandinavian folk dancing. Attend a Stoughton Village Players theatrical performance written and performed by local actors who are expert at presenting the humorous side of life in Stoughton. Be sure to seek out a Hardanger fiddle performance to see and hear these beautiful instruments up close.
- Chorus Public House Live Music
- Christ Lutheran Church
- Craft Beer Tent Entertainment
- Stoughton City Band Concert
- Stoughton Opera House
- Stoughton Village Players Theater
Crowning the Syttende Mai Royalty
Check out the crowning of Syttende Mai’s event ambassadors in a tradition that spans five decades. Stoughton’s Syttende Mai royalty kick off the three-day event and declare the weekend a statewide celebration.
Those who wear the Syttende Mai crown receive the honor for their commitment to community service and keeping the local Norwegian culture alive. Each year, a couple learns of their nomination in September and must keep it a secret from everyone, even friends and family, for five months. During the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers’ February Norse Afternoon of Fun, the new king and queen receive their crowns and join previous years’ honorees.
Although their reign is symbolic, the annual Syttende Mai King and Queen dress in traditional Norwegian clothing, or bunad, for the entire festival. In addition to opening the festival, the couple attend more than 40 events over the weekend. They are the festival’s icons and serve as cultural ambassadors to visitors. Have questions about the Norwegian cultural demonstrations, colors, music, foods and costumes you see? Ask this year’s king and queen (or one of our many volunteers).
Young people participate in the Syttende Mai royalty tradition, too. Two local third-grade students are selected as the festival’s annual Prince and Princess and are chosen to carry on Norwegian traditions among their peers. They serve as grand marshals of the Saturday Youth Parade, ride in the Sunday Norwegian Parade, and start The Lil’ Run. The pair also attend the opening dinner and make other appearances throughout the Syttende Mai festival.
Again, you’ll find Stoughton along U.S. 51 and Highway 138, southeast of Madison. I-39/90 and U.S. 14 also bring you close!
August 19, 2021 – August 22, 2021
The World’s Largest celebration of Celtic music and culture, the 40th Milwaukee Irish Fest happens Thursday, August 19th through Sunday, August 22nd on Milwaukee’s lakefront. An amazing array of musical artists in Irish and Celtic music fill several stages.
Other Irish Fest activities include a Baking Contest, Photo and Poetry Contests, and “Red Hair & Freckles” Contest, a “Celtic Canines” exhibit, the Jameson Lounge (for whiskey tastings), a Marketplace filled with Irish crafts and other items from over 90 vendors, a Cultural Village, and much more.
Saturday the 21st features a 5K Run/Walk to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. Later that day you can enjoy the Lesaffre/Red Star Yeast Baking Contest. Dog lovers can check out Milwaukee Irish Fest’s Celtic Canine Area; this unique area gives you the chance to see and pet some of Ireland’s most popular dog breeds, meet and talk with some of the Midwest’s top breeders, and learn about grooming, general care and training. The Irish dog breeds include Irish Wolfhounds, Irish Terriers, Irish Red Setters, Irish Red and White Setters, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers, Irish Water Spaniels, Kerry Blue Terriers and Kerry Beagles. The Celtic Canines will be on display Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For a full lineup of activities and deals for everything else, check out the Irish Fest website!
You can reach Irish Fest at Henry Maier Festival Park (aka the Summerfest grounds) along Milwaukee’s lakefront via I-794 and U.S. 18 most directly. Highways 32, 38, 59, and 145 all bring you within a mile of the grounds.
Milwaukee Irish Fest Address:
Henry Maier Festival Park (aka Summerfest Grounds)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202