Swedish roots on display at festival

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GENEVA –  Dressed from head to toe in a traditional Swedish outfit, Jill Crooker is more than happy to show off her heritage.

Crooker, a member of the Chicago-based Nordic Folk Dancers, helped lead the traditional Maypole dancing at Sunday's 103rd annual Swedish Day festival at Good Templar Park in Geneva.

"We like to keep the traditions going that our forefathers started," Crooker said. "It's also good exercise."

Sponsored by the local chapter of the International Organization of Good Templars , Swedish Day is an alcohol-free celebration of the Scandinavian tradition of Midsommar, the longest day of the year in Sweden.

Swedish Day has been held since 1925 in Good Templar Park. And one doesn't have to be Swedish to partake in the day's activities.

"Thanks for letting an Irish guy come celebrate with you," said Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, who was also on hand for the festivities.

Bob Nishikawa, of Batavia, has come to know about Swedish traditions. His wife's family is part Norwegian. Dianne Peterson is known for her environmental activities in Batavia.

"I consider myself an honorary Swede," said Nishikawa, who also lived in Stockholm, Sweden, for six months.

Their children, Anais Peterson and Boomba Nishikawa, are members of the Swedish American Children's Choir, which performed Sunday as part of Swedish Day. Anais Peterson, 15, was named this year's Midsommar Queen.

"It is an honor to be chosen," she said.

Geneva will celebrates its Swedish roots during Swedish Days, which starts Tuesday. The Nordic Folk Dancers will be dancing at 4 p.m. Saturday as part of the Sweden Vast set up on Fourth Street, between Hamilton and State streets.