No matter where you're from, there's a heritage festival for you.
© Torsten Muller
A Viking ship is part of the Syttende Mai parade in Spring Grove, Minnesota's first Norwegian settlement.
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 2015.
June 19, Juneteenth Day Festival in Milwaukee. On Martin Luther King Drive.
June 20, Juneteenth Day in Minneapolis. At North Mississippi Regional Park.
Aug. 8, Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic in Chicago. On the South Side, ending in Washington Park.
© Chicago Chinatown
Dragons parade through Chinatown in Chicago.
Sept. 4-6, 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 23, CelebrAsian: The Annual Asian Heritage Festival in Des Moines. At Western Gateway Park.
July 11-12, Belgian Days in Brussels, Wis., in Door County.
July 3-5, African-Caribbean International Festival of Life in Chicago. In Union Park.
August, Belize Day in the Park in Chicago. In Washington Park.
March 14, Celtic Festival in Moorhead, Minn., at the Hjemkomst Center, sponsored by Moorhead Parks.
For St. Patrick's Day festivals, see Toasting St. Pat.
Sept. 18-19, Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities at Centennial Park in downtown Davenport.
Sept. 25-27, Cornish Festival in Mineral Point, Wis. At Pendarvis and around town.
July, Chinatown Summer Fair in Chicago.
May, Houby Days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Czech Village.
June 13-14, Cesky Den in Hillsboro, Wis.
June 19-21, Czech-Slovak Festival in Phillips, Wis.
September, Dozinky in New Prague, Minn.
© Hoskovec Photo
Guitarists play at Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul.
May 23-24, 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, Dutch Days in Fulton, Ill.
May 2-9, Tulip Time in Holland, Mich.
May 7-9, Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa.
May 14-16, Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa.
July, Dutch Festival in Edgerton, Minn.
July, Holland Festival in Cedar Grove, Wis., near Lake Michigan just south of Sheboygan.
June, 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 9-12, Bastille Days in Milwaukee. On Cathedral Square.
May 2-3, Maifest in Amana, Iowa.
May 28-31, Maifest in Chicago. In the Lincoln Square neighborhood.
July 17-19, Bavarian Blast in New Ulm, Minn..
July 24-26, German Fest in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.
Sept. 11-13, German-American Festival in Chicago. In Lincoln Square.
© Beth Gauper
Irish dancers step in a parade.
For more, see Toasting Oktoberfest .
For more about German culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Germany.
June, Greek Fest in West Allis, Wis. At Wisconsin State Fair Park.
August, Taste of Greece in Chicago. In Greektown.
July 31-Aug. 3, the 126th Islendingadagurinn in Gimli, Manitoba, the largest Icelandic community outside Iceland.
May, Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, Ill.
June, Irish Festival in Oshkosh, Wis. In Riverside Park on the Fox River.
July 10-12, Irish Fest in Chicago. At the Irish American Heritage Center.
July 31-Aug. 2, Iowa Irish Fest in Waterloo. In Lincoln Park.
Aug. 7-9, Irish Fair in St. Paul. On Harriet Island.
Aug. 7-9, Irishfest in La Crosse, Wis. On the Southside Fest grounds.
Aug. 13-16, Irish Fest in Milwaukee. In Maier Festival Park.
© Beth Gauper
The Narren of New Ulm, Minn., folk figures with wooden masks, appear at many German festivals.
Sept. 17-20, Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon, Mich. At Heritage Landing on Muskegon Lake.
May, Festa Italia in Madison. At McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg, presented by the Italian Workmen's Club.
July 17-19, Festa Italiana in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.
July 24-25, Viva L'Italia in Des Moines. At Western Gateway Park downtown.
August, Festa Italiana in Shoreview, Minn. In Island Lake Park.
August, Festa Italiana in Rockford, Ill. On the grounds of Boylan High School.
Aug. 7-9, Ginza Holiday Festival in Chicago. At the Midwest Buddhist Temple near LIncoln Park.
© Beth Gauper
Powwows are the linchpin of American Indian culture.
May 2, Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul's District del Sol on the West Side.
June 12-14, Fiesta Waukesha in Waukesha, Wis. In Frame Park on the Fox River, just west of Milwaukee.
August, Festival Cubano in Chicago. In Riis Park.
Aug. 21-23, Mexican Fiesta in Milwaukee. At Maier Festival Park.
Sept. 26-27, Latino Heritage Festival in Des Moines. At Water Works Park.
July 17-19, Middle Eastern Festival in West St. Paul, Minn. At St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.
May 15-17, Syttende Mai in Stoughton, Wis.
June 20-21, 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.
© Beth Gauper
Residents of the Swiss town of New Glarus stage a Wilhelm Tell pageant over Labor Day weekend.
May, Polish Constitution Day in Chicago. At the Copernicus Center. It's also known as Mayfest and Polish Fest.
August, Polish Festival in Boyne Falls, Mich.
Aug. 7-9, Twin Cities Polish Festival in Minneapolis, on the Mississippi riverfront across from downtown.
August, Southside Polish Fest in Bridgeview, Ill. At Toyota Park.
September, Taste of Polonia in Chicago. At the Copernicus Center.
June 5-7, Scandinavian Days in Story City, Iowa.
June 12-13, Nisswa-Stãmman Scandinavian Folk Festival in Nisswa, Minn.
June1, Midsommar Festival in South Elgin, Ill. In Vasa Park on the Fox River.
June 20-21, Midsummer Fest at Norskedalen Heritage Center in Coon Valley, Wis.
June 20, Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, Wis.
June 26-27, Midwest Viking Festival and Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn.
© Beth Gauper
At Pella's Tulip Time, descendants of Dutch immigrants wear lace hats called poeffers.
Sept. 13, 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 6, Scottish Fest & Highland Games in Milwaukee. At Hart Park in the suburb of Wauwatosa.
July 18, Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games in Eagan, Minn. At Faithful Shepherd Catholic School.
Sept. 4-6, Wisconsin Highland Games in Waukesha, Wis. At the Expo Center.
June 12-14, Midsommarfest in Chicago. At the Swedish American Museum in the Andersonville neighborhood.
June, Swedish Day in Geneva, Ill., held since 1911. In Good Templar Park.
June 23-28, Swedish Days in Geneva, Ill.
June 28, Svenskarnas Dag in Minneapolis. At Minnehaha Park.
© Beth Gauper
Polka dancing is a big part of Milwaukee's Polish Fest.
For more about Swedish culture in the Upper Midwest, see Heritage travel: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
September, Turkish Festival in Chicago. At Pioneer Court on the Magnificent Mile.
July 31-Aug. 2, Canada's National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba.
September, Twin Cities Ukrainian Heritage Festival in Minneapolis. At the Ukrainian Event Center near Nicollet Island.
And everywhere else
Aug. 2-15, 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 February 23, 2015
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