MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Celebrating roots

No matter where you're from, there's a festival for you.

Dancers in the Wilhelm Tell pageant.

© Beth Gauper

Residents of the Swiss town of New Glarus stage a Wilhelm Tell pageant over Labor Day weekend.

In general, I like my heritage. It involves Vikings and trolls and populist politics. At festivals, tow-headed children dance around in cute outfits.

But the food . . . not so much. When it comes to herring and lutefisk, I'd rather be Polish. Plump pierogi with sour cream and sauteed onions — now, there's an ethnic food I can love.

Luckily, it's easy to piggyback on other cultures in the Upper Midwest. Yes, many of us came  from Germany, Ireland and Norway.

But we also came from Greece, Ghana, Switzerland, Iceland, Scotland, Ukraine — and there are festivals honoring those cultures and those of the Dakota, Ojibwe, Cree and Ho-Chunk, who already were here.

Some of these festivals are the biggest in the region — Decorah's Nordic Fest brings 75,000 people to a town of 8,000 — so it's a good idea to plan far in advance.

If you’d like to reconnect with your heritage, or explore someone else’s, here's a list of summer and fall festivals

And for stories about ethnic communities in the Upper Midwest — Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, German, Dutch, Swiss, Dakota and Ojibwe — see Heritage Travel.

For more on towns that celebrate their heritage, see our Ethnic towns stories.

For exploring the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago, see Globe-trotting in Chicago.

Here are some of the best festivals in 2014.


June, Juneteenth Day in Minneapolis. At North Mississippi Regional Park.

June 19, Juneteenth Day Festival in Milwaukee. On Martin Luther King Drive.

Aug. 9, Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic in Chicago. On the South Side, ending in Washington Park.

American Indian

All powwows and wacipi are celebrations of culture, and many are held on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. For a list, see Powwow primer or check Drumhop.

Tulip Time in Pella.

© Beth Gauper

At Pella's Tulip Time, descendants of Dutch immigrants wear lace hats called poeffers.

Sept. 5-7, Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.

For more about Dakota and Ojibwe culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Dakota and Ojibwe.


May 31, CelebrAsian: The Annual Asian Heritage Festival in Des Moines. At the State Capitol.


July 12-13, Belgian Days in Brussels, Wis., in Door County.


July 3-6, African-Caribbean International Festival of Life in Chicago. In Union Park.

Aug. 3, Belize Day in the Park in Chicago. In Washington Park.


March 8, Celtic Festival in Moorhead, Minn., at the Hjemkomst Center, sponsored by Moorhead Parks.

For St. Patrick's Day festivals, see Toasting St. Pat.

Sept. 19-20, Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities at Centennial Park in downtown Davenport. 

Sept. 26-27, Cornish Festival in Mineral Point, Wis. At Pendarvis and around town. 


June 28, Chicago Dragon Boat Race on the Chicago River past Chinatown.

July 20, Chinatown Summer Fair in Chicago.


May 16-18, Houby Days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Czech Village.

June 14-15, Cesky Den in Hillsboro, Wis.

June 20-22, Czech-Slovak Festival in Phillips, Wis.

September, Dozinky in New Prague, Minn. 

Polka Dancers in traditional outfits

© Beth Gauper

Polka dancing is a big part of Milwaukee's Polish Fest.


May 24-25, Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn, Iowa, at the Danish Museum.

July, Aebleskiver Days in Tyler, Minn. 

For more about Danish culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.


May 1-3, Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa.

May 2-3, Dutch Days in Fulton, Ill.

May 3-10, Tulip Time in Holland, Mich.

May 15-17, Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa.

July 11-12, Dutch Festival in Edgerton, Minn.

July 25-26, Holland Festival in Cedar Grove, Wis., near Lake Michigan just south of Sheboygan.


June 14, Finnish-American Summer Festival in Embarrass, Minn.

For more about Finnish culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.


July 10-13, Bastille Days in Milwaukee. On Cathedral Square.


May 3-4, Maifest in Amana, Iowa.

May 29-June 1, Maifest in Chicago. In the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

July 18-20, Bavarian Blast in New Ulm, Minn..

July 25-27, German Fest in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.

Sept. 5-7, German-American Festival in Chicago. In Lincoln Square. 

Sept. 6, Germanfest in Sioux Falls, S.D. In Falls Park.

Sept. 19-20, German Fest in Guttenberg, Iowa.

A dancer at a powwow.

© Beth Gauper

Powwows are the linchpin of American Indian culture.

For more, see Toasting Oktoberfest .

For more about German culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Germany.


June 20-22, Greek Fest in West Allis, Wis. At Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Aug. 23-24, Taste of Greece in Chicago. In Greektown.


Aug. 1-4, the 125th Islendingadagurinn in Gimli, Manitoba, the largest Icelandic community outside Iceland.


May 23-26, Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, Ill.

June 12-15, Irish Festival in Oshkosh, Wis. In Riverside Park on the Fox River.

July 11-13, Irish Fest in Chicago. At the Irish American Heritage Center.

Aug. 1-3, Iowa Irish Fest in Waterloo. In Lincoln Park.

Aug. 8-10, Irish Fair in St. Paul. On Harriet Island.

Aug. 8-10, Irishfest in La Crosse, Wis. On the Southside Fest grounds.

Aug. 14-17, Irish Fest in Milwaukee. In Maier Festival Park.

The Narren of New Ulm.

© Beth Gauper

The Narren of New Ulm, Minn., folk figures with wooden masks, appear at many German festivals.

Sept. 12-14, Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon, Mich. At Heritage Landing on Muskegon Lake.


May 30-June 1, Festa Italia in Madison. At McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg, presented by the Italian Workmen's Club.

July 18-20, Festa Italiana in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.

July 25-26, Viva L'Italia in Des Moines. At Western Gateway Park downtown.

Aug. 1-3, Festa Italiana in Shoreview, Minn. In Island Lake Park.

August, Festa Italiana in Rockford, Ill. On the grounds of Boylan High School.


Aug. 8-10, Ginza Holiday Festival in Chicago. At the Midwest Buddhist Temple near LIncoln Park.


August, Luxembourg Heritage Weekend in Belgium, Wis.

Mexican/Latin American

Dragons in a Chinatown parade.

© Chicago Chinatown

Dragons parade through Chinatown in Chicago.

May 3, Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul's District del Sol on the West Side.

June 20-22, Fiesta Waukesha in Waukesha, Wis. In Frame Park on the Fox River, just west of Milwaukee.

Aug. 1-3, Festival Cubano in Chicago. In Riis Park.

Aug. 22-24, Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.

Sept. 6-7, Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines. At Water Works Park.

Middle Eastern

July 18-20, Middle Eastern Festival in West St. Paul, Minn. At St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.


May 16-18, Syttende Mai in Stoughton, Wis.

May 16-18, Syttende Mai in Westby, Wis.

May 16-18, Syttende Mai in Spring Grove, Minn. For more, see In the land of Norwegians.

June 21-22, Midsummer Festival near Westby, Wis. At Norskedalen heritage museum. 

For more about Norwegian culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.


Guitarists at a Mexican fiesta.

© Hoskovec Photo

Guitarists play at Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul.

May 3, Polish Constitution Day in Chicago. At the Copernicus Center. It's also known as Mayfest and Polish Fest.

June 13-15, Polish Fest in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park. For more, see Polish for a day.

July 31-Aug. 3, Polish Festival in Boyne Falls, Mich.

Aug. 8-10, Twin Cities Polish Festival in Minneapolis, on the Mississippi riverfront across from downtown.

Aug. 14-17, Southside Polish Fest in Bridgeview, Ill. At Toyota Park.

Aug. 30-Sept. 1, Taste of Polonia in Chicago. At the Copernicus Center.


June 6-8, Scandinavian Days in Story City, Iowa.

June 6-7, Nisswa-Stãmman Scandinavian Folk Festival in Nisswa, Minn.

June 21, Midsommar Festival in South Elgin, Ill. In Vasa Park on the Fox River.

June 21-22, Midsummer Fest at Norskedalen Heritage Center in Coon Valley, Wis.

June 21-22, Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, Wis.

June 28-29, Midwest Viking Festival and Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn.

July 24-26, Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa. For more, see Nordic nirvana.

Irish dancers in a parade.

© Beth Gauper

Irish dancers step in a parade.

Sept. 7, Scandinavian Day in South Elgin, Ill. In Vasa Park on the Fox River.

For more about Scandinavian culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.


June 7, Scottish Fest & Highland Games in Milwaukee. At Hart Park in the suburb of Wauwatosa.

July 12, Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games. On the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington.

Aug. 29-31, Wisconsin Highland Games & Celtic Fling. At the Expo Center in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee.


June 6-8, Midsommarfest in Chicago. At the Swedish American Museum in the Andersonville neighborhood.

June 15, Swedish Day in Geneva, Ill., held since 1911. In Good Templar Park.

June 17-22, Swedish Days in Geneva, Ill.

June 21, Midsommar Dag in Scandia, Minn. At Gammelgården Museum.

June 22, Svenskarnas Dag in Minneapolis. At Minnehaha Park.

A Viking ship float in Spring Grove.

© Torsten Muller

A Viking ship is part of the Syttende Mai parade in Spring Grove, Minnesota's first Norwegian settlement.

July 9-13, Karl Oskar Days in Lindstrom, Minn., in the Chisago Lakes area.

For more about Swedish culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.


June 27-29, Heidi Festival in New Glarus, Wis.

Aug. 3, Swiss Volksfest in New Glarus.

Aug. 29-31, Wilhelm Tell Festival in New Glarus.

For more about Swiss culture in the Upper Midwest, see Swiss at heart and Heritage travel: Switzerland.


Sept. 5-6, Turkish Festival in Chicago. At Pioneer Court on the Magnificent Mile.


Aug. 1-3, Canada's National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. 

September, Twin Cities Ukrainian Heritage Festival in Minneapolis. At the Ukrainian Event Center near Nicollet Island.


Aug. 28-31, North American Festival of Wales in Minneapolis.

And everywhere else

Aug. 3-16, Winnipeg holds Folklorama, with 45 pavilions celebrating the nationalities who have come to this melting pot on the Manitoba prairie.

Pavilions are devoted to the countries listed above as well as to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, India, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Serbia, Croatia, Cuba, El Salvador, Indochina, Russia, Slovenia and the Tamil region on the Indian Ocean.

Venues are throughout the city. For more about Winnipeg, see Bazaar on the prairie.

Last updated on June 18, 2014

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