Nordic Fiddles and Feet, a Scandinavian Summer Camp

Nordic Fiddles and Feet
Photos via Nordic Fiddles and Feet

Music & Arts

Nordic Fiddles and Feet, a Scandinavian Summer Camp

Calling all nyckelharpa, hardingfele and Scandinavian dance enthusiasts: There’s a summer camp for you – and it’s called Nordic Fiddles and Feet.

Each summer, people from across the United States travel to Camp Ogontz near Littleton, N.H., for Nordic Fiddles and Feet, a weeklong, all-ages summer camp filled with Scandinavian music, dance, crafts and fun.

The campsite sits on 350 acres of woods and has a lake for canoeing and swimming, paths for jogging and walking and other recreational activities. But the true experience at Nordic Fiddles and Feet is in the arts, and the activities are endless.

“There is always something new to do,” camp-goer and organizer Meg Mabbs told us days ahead of this year’s festival, which ran from June 26 to July 2. “Each day we offer music and dance classes all day long, happy hours and cultural sessions and dance parties with live music every night.”

Mabbs has been attending and helping organize the weeklong Scandinavian camp since 1986, when it began as Scandinavian Week, and is a founding member of Nordic Fiddles and Feet, of which the program evolved in 2010.

“I am one of three people who have been to every camp,” Mabbs said. “I’ve done everything at one time or another including helping with the treasury, housing, teaching classes and promotion while also attending the camp and enjoying the activities.”

Next year’s festival is already on the books and is scheduled to take place June 24-July 1.

Nordic Fiddles and Feet = Overnight Camping

Nordic Fiddles and Feet is a residential camp. While staying the entire week is highly recommended for the full experience, part-time options are available. Guests can relive their days as a scout and stay in tents, opt in to dormitory-style lodging (complete with indoor plumbing) or select the ultimate upgrade and rent out rooms in a house on site. Meals are included in the stay. 

All the Scandinavian Activities

From classes to dance parties and cultural sessions, there’s never a dull moment. Classes range from musical instrument lessons offered at three levels for fiddle, hardingfele and nyckelharpa to dance classes where guests can learn traditional folk dances like gammaldans (old-time dances), bygdedans (specific village dances) and more.

Crafts are another educational and hands-on activity and vary each year. In the past, Nordic Fiddles and Feet has offered lessons in wood carving, wire work and knitting.

Each evening after dinner a culture session is hosted by the Scandinavian staff.

“The cultural sessions are really great and cover multiple regions of Scandinavia,” Mabbs said. “One night the Swedish staff will host and another can be the Nordic staff.”

Based on the staff’s talents, they share their expertise and have had woodworkers, researchers and artists discuss their art and its history. Some cultural sessions include panel discussions about different types of Scandinavian music and dance, and others are concerts and performances.

Each day can have a jam-packed schedule for campers, but they have the option to choose to attend or not attend any activities. When campers are not learning a new dance or how to play the nyckelharpa (among several other traditional instruments), they can enjoy the beautiful surroundings, including the lake, tennis courts and even a playground for young children.

Dedicated Guests, Dedicated Organizers

There are a variety of backgrounds involved in the festival from second- and third-generation Scandinavians to those who simply are interested in folk music.

“I’m not of Scandinavian decent, but have always been really interested in international folk dancing,” Mabbs said. “That’s the great things about this festival: You get people from all walks of life who come together to enjoy Swedish and Norwegian arts.”

The group that began Scandinavian Week in the mid-1980s were in their 20s at the time and continue coming back each year.

“The age of our guests truly varies from children to people in their 60s and beyond,” Mabbs said. “People bring their families and have been bringing their kids and their kids’ kids for years.”

The weeklong Scandinavian camp has been running strong for 31 years and is a testament to the passion and dedication of each campgoer and organizer.

“The camp is almost 100 percent volunteer run,” Mabbs said. “Over the years, it’s become a community. You go to camp and suddenly have friends from the entire world who share an interest and passion for cultural wealth, specifically Scandinavian music, dance, history, art and more. This camaraderie we’ve built over the last few decades will last forever, and the camp is fun!”

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