For the past 35 years, the Vasa Park community in Budd Lake, New Jersey has claimed the Sunday before Labor Day to celebrate their Scandinavian heritage with ScanFest. For most of the past several years, Pillerkaar has made the trip from Washington, DC to New Jersey to ensure that Estonia shares the spotlight in this Nordic celebration. September 1, 2019 was no exception. The festivities started mid morning, when Pillerkaar dancers carried the Estonian flag (along with the Danish and Finnish flags) in the opening procession and also sang the Eesti Hümn in the opening ceremonies. But of course, when Pillerkaar comes to a festival, it is to dance!
The Pavilion Longhouse at ScanFest - one of three stages on the festival grounds and the primary venue for entertainment - plays host to a variety of musicians and dancers all day long. Most performers actually go on twice, and this is nice for both performers and festival-goers, to ensure that there are opportunities to see everyone you want to see. Pillerkaar regaled two different audiences with a set of eight dances spanning from the traditional “Padespaan” and “Tuljak” to the brand new “Kalamees” from this year’s Tantsupidu in Tallinn, Estonia. The audience from each performance was then invited on stage to learn a few Estonian folk dances and dozens of guests jumped at the opportunity to do a bit of dancing themselves. In between performances, Pillerkaar happily accepted an invitation from a presenter to send a few dancers to the Nordic Tent to participate in a talk about Scandinavian and Nordic national dress.
ScanFest has been the biggest event on Pillerkaar’s calendar for the past several years. Not only was this year’s event as big as ever, but you couldn’t help but notice that of the flag stickers that festival guests select at the entrance gate, there were many more Estonian flags being sported this year than in previous years. Whether Scandinavian or Nordic or not, ScanFest offers a venue for celebrating the variety of cultures that come together in America and it is a real pleasure to see Estonia play such a prominent role.
by Jeff Zelek, Pillerkaar Choreographer