Community Papers

Scandinavian Midsummer Festival this weekend

John Cowan, whose Viking name is Thornin Redlegs, glowers from the safety of his battle helmet at the annual Midsummer Festival, Saturday at the Scandinavian Centre. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
John Cowan, whose Viking name is Thornin Redlegs, glowers from the safety of his battle helmet at the annual Midsummer Festival, Saturday at the Scandinavian Centre.

If you’ve ever wanted to sling your wife over your shoulder for a chance to win her weight in beer, circle June 22 on your calendar.

That’s when the traditional wife carrying contest takes centre stage at the 19th annual Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, which runs Friday through Sunday.

The festival begins Friday, June 20, with the Ember Skies midsummer night bash at the Scandinavian Centre from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. The licensed party features an outdoor main stage and an indoor electro lounge, each with live entertainment.

There will also be a demonstration by the Finlandia Sports Club of various wife-carrying techniques and a chance to register for Sunday’s races.

The first full day of the festival kicks off early Saturday morning with the 9th annual Paavo Nurmi run around Burnaby Lake. Participants will be able to loosen their legs, and maybe run off their hangover, along a 3km, 5km or 10km course along the trails that encircle the lake.

The family festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Scandinavian Centre with an array of cultural activities, a marketplace of handcrafted jewel, clothes, toys and woodwork, a beer garden, salmon barbecue and folk dancing.

The popular Viking village returns with an enactment of daily Viking life by members of Reik Félag, a Norse cultural recreational society. They weave blankets with traditional looms, cook stew over an open fire, cast weapons in an open fire and then battle to prepare for future pillaging raids..

A highlight of the day is the raising of the traditional midsummer pole, a maypole wrapped in garland that is tilted into position in the centre of the festivities. Once the pole is upright and secure, dancers join hands and circle it.

Throughout the day music and traditional dances from all the Scandinavian nations will be performed on the main stage.

Young visitors to the festival will be able to visit the troll forest, listen to stories, play carnival games or participate in the Amazing Nordic Race.

Sunday, a brunch at 10 a.m. will provide fuel for another day of activities at the Scandinavian Centre until 4 p.m.

But at 2 p.m. all eyes will be on the wife carrying race.

Participants tote their wife or, as the rules state, “his neighbour’s wife, or someone found ‘further afield’” across an obstacle course that is comprised of two dry hurdles and one that goes through water.

While nobody is certain why wife-carrying became a sport, it is believed to have originated in Finland in the late 1800s. The country hosts a world championship every year that is governed by set of international rules.

Those set out the length of the track, a minimum weight standard for the wives, an appeals process and the abolition of “inflatable wives.” Oh, and “smiling and having fun are non-negotiable.”

Which might just as well be extended to the whole festival.

For more about the festival, go to

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.