Syttende Mai Festival, Stoughton« Back to Events
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. 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.
The city-wide festival takes place every year on the weekend closest to Norway’s May 17th Constitution Day, also known as Syttende Mai. In 2023, the festivities run through the weekend of May 19th through the 21st. The Arts & Crafts Fair attracts arts and crafts enthusiasts and artists who appreciate Norwegian culture and its role in the arts. The Stoughton festival features an annual juried craft fair where artisans and artists show and sell their hand-crafted works. The Norwegian art of rosemaling, or decorative painting, traditional Norwegian embroidery and quilts are all on display. Many artists hold public demonstrations of how they create their works, too. It’s a great opportunity for Stoughton festival-goers to meet the artists and appreciate the art’s deep roots in traditional Norwegian culture. It includes the Arts & Craft Fair, Hardanger Embroidery Exhibit, the Quilt Show, the Rosemaling Exhibit and Sale, and Norwegian Cultural Demonstrations. It runs Saturday from 10am — 6pm and Sunday from 9am — 2pm at River Bluff Middle School Gymnasium, Cafetorium, and Grounds at 235 N. Forrest Street in Stoughton.
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!