Ah, midsummer. Seems like a cruel joke doesn’t it? Remember last weekend? Thirty six hours of sun and 85 degrees? We will remember those hours fondly when 2010 was known as The Year With The 36 Hour Summer. We’ll bore the grandkids with our wistful stories and try to keep from spitting our teeth out.
Lack of summer not withstanding, the Astoria Midsummer Scandinavian Fair is one of the “big” festivals we look forward to all year. It gives us a reason to go to Astoria, it gives Dave a reason to celebrate his 1/4 Norwegian heritage (maybe), and it also gives reason to drink beer. Not a lot of downsides. We went to this festival last year and had a rather epic trip. We needed two posts to cover it all: post one, post two.
Dave had a good point during this visit to Astoria, that we wouldn’t visit nearly as often if it weren’t for The Commodore Hotel. It opened just over a year ago and we stay there every time we go to Astoria. It’s in the middle of downtown, so we can walk everywhere, it’s a perfect blend of hip with heritage, and it’s cheap! If you get a “cabin,” a small but comfortable room with the restroom and shower down the hall, it’s less than $70. If you want a nicer view, it’s still less than $90. We splurged and got a view on this trip.
One of the many, many things I like about Astoria is that it’s not a “nightlife” town. There are bars open late, and I know this because you sure can hear everyone leaving when they close, but I don’t feel obligated to go paint the town red when we stay in Astoria. We get dinner, look into the galleries and shops that may still be open, then we head back to the hotel to read the local paper and hit the hay. This may sound totally lame to you, but I basically just described my heaven. Dinner, reading, bed.
The next morning, we continued another ritual, which is to go to Blue Scorcher and get coffee. So Portland is a coffee town. But nothing in Portland knocks our socks off like the coffee at Blue Scorcher. We asked about it, and it’s by a local roaster who prides herself on being untraceable on the internet. We found her the last time we came to Astoria and I remarked how hard she was to find. The owner was nearly gleeful. Regretfully, we forgot to visit before two o’clock when they close on Saturday. I might have to “pick up the phone” and “call them” to order more coffee. Gah.
After we tanked up on coffee, granola and a prune tart at Blue Scorcher, we caught the Optog through downtown Astoria.
I grew up in a small town, and for much of my childhood, I often belonged to some group that marched in small town parades. It was either Brownies, or Girl Scouts or marching band. I think at some point or another, every kid in town had a reason to be in our tiny community parades. I was reminded of this childhood experience as we watched the Optog go by.
Everyone knew everyone else. Onlookers cheered people by name. Families went by with their toddlers in strollers, kids dressed up in their cultural garb. The whole town probably has some kind of Viking heritage. There was at least one old guy standing on the curb near us doing high kicks with the Shanghaied in Astoria cast. I was too damned slow with my camera to catch that.
There they all go. Probably pretty different from the Pride parade that was the same weekend in Portland. We missed that one.
From there, Dave and I got in the car and headed up the hill to the fairgrounds. It’s a ways out of town, but we reasoned that in smaller towns, no one expects to get anywhere without a car. And since it rains probably 80% of the time in Astoria, any large fair needs to be held indoors.
Here’s Dave showing his cultural allegiance. Evidently, there a difference between Sweden and Norway.
Yay! We are such dorks for festivals like this!
It was quite well attended. We quickly navigated to the food area. This was not going to be a healthy food weekend. We got delicious flakey pastries, one filled with Swedish meatballs, the other filled with crab cake. Because how do you make meatballs or crab cakes better? You stuff them inside a pastry, so you don’t need a fork. Delicious and practical.
Look at how goddamned cute this guy is, eating his prune tart. I’m going to marry this man.
I guess Scandinavians really do wear wooden shoes. Not everything you learn from cartoons is inaccurate.
We’ve seen this guy before, but this time, he didn’t bring his hat. Instead, he had an ax.
Unwise, I’d say, to give @daveknowspdx an ax. But you know, they’re viking brothers and all.
We had to wait all the way until noon for the beer garden to open. And that’s where we met up with the troll.
This guy has the best job in the whole Scandinavian Festival. He gets to kiss all the ladies. And the guys too, as I understand. He seriously, practically, for all intents and purposes, made out with me. Oh my.
In the beer garden, we listened to a local band that was admittedly more country than European, but evidently, because they had an accordion, they were asked to play in the fair. It was like that scene in the Blues Brothers, except in reverse.
The elder gent playing bass guitar was on oxygen. They made jokes about it. He pretended to huff and puff like he needed a break. But he had the best voice, deep, and soulful.
We walked around the fair one more time before leaving. The whole event was quite a production. A dozen different food vendors, at least three different performances going on at once, and more than a few seniors snoozing in their chairs. This was a grand party. I will come back to this fair every year. We love it.
We drove back into town and met with the owner of the Bridge Water Bistro, where we will have our wedding dinner. We talked about menus and wine and wedding cake. Dave was very excited that they had local boquerones, which are pickled anchovies in vinegar. Anything to make the groom happy. We had dinner there that evening after our meeting and knew we had picked the right location. It was by far the best dinner we’ve had in all our visits to Astoria. We abandoned any attempt to eat healthy or stay low calorie on this trip. We were not disappointed. There was a confidence and ingenuity with the cuisine that reminded us of Higgins in Portland. And the desserts unbelievable. We cannot wait to have our wedding dinner.
We went back to the hotel satiated and happy. I had the best night of sleep in a long, long time.
The next morning, we got our coffee at Blue Scorcher then went over to the Sunday Market for breakfast. It was breezy and misting on and off, but it didn’t keep the crowds away.
We got breakfast crepes and strolled the market a few times. There were a few vendors who were selling strawberries. Some were obviously not Oregon strawberries. They were the size of lemons. The Oregon strawberries were tiny and sadly, when I tried one, not very tasty. I’m worried that this cold, wet spring may have put a dent in the berry season this year. Perhaps it’s just too early.
We walked around a bit more to kill some time, waiting for Fort George to open. We can’t spend the weekend in Astoria without at least one beer from Fort George. They are building a big outdoor patio and expanding their brewery into the old Ford service garage and showroom next door. We got a tour of the new space. These are old buildings, with beams made out of huge old growth trees. Beams two feet wide and three feet tall, and dozens of feet long, all one continuous piece. It’s hard to imagine how massive the trees must have been. Now they sit in vacant, forgotten buildings, waiting to be rediscovered.
It seems like every time we go to Astoria, there is new construction or renovation taking place on some long shuttered building. Fort George Brewing is renovating a whole block by themselves. There are still many downtown store fronts sitting cold and vacant. But it feels like there’s some energy pumping through the town and people are making things happen. We may find a way to live in Portland and Astoria at the same time.
Anything is possible with beer. Anything.