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Decorated chairs greet Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival guests

Jill Johnson-Danielson decorates chairs on the porch of her Moorhead home for the annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival. Twenty-five chairs will be displayed during the festival. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)

MOORHEAD - Organizers of this year's Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival hope guests will take a seat, and then take it home.

Blue and white chairs will line the sidewalks during the 32nd annual festival in Moorhead this weekend. They will provide a place to sit, and be sold through silent auction.

"What a sign of welcome and hospitality," says Ellen Liddle, president of the Red River Finns. "It will also provide a place for people to sit and shoot the breeze and maybe make some new friendships or renew friendships."

Finland is the festival's featured country this year, and lends its national colors to the chairs.

Claudia Pratt, festival director, attended FinnFest in Marquette, Mich., in 2005, where hundreds of chairs welcomed people to that festival. She said organizers wanted to bring the idea here.

About a dozen chairs were decorated in the Swedish colors of blue and yellow for the 2006 Scandinavian Hjemkmost Festival.

"It just added so much color and life to the festival," Pratt says.

This year, about 25 chairs are being decorated, including some rocking chairs, to play off the theme "Nordic Spirit Rocks."

"There are a lot of stories told in rocking chairs, grandparents or parents to children," Pratt says.

Pratt wove a rocking chair with felt. "Weaving is a very integral part of the Finnish folk culture and folk art," she says.

Some chairs are sponge painted, another decorated with colorful polka dots. A white chair is adorned with sinivuokko, a blue Finnish spring flower. One blue seat features the Whooper Swan, Finland's national bird.

The color theme comes from Finland's flag, which features a blue cross on a field of white. The white represents the snow that covers the land in the winter, Liddle says. Blue represents the country's lakes and sky.

"You don't have to be Finnish to appreciate that color scheme," says Jill Johnson-Danielson, a Moorhead artist who is decorating two chairs.

One of her chairs is patterned after a napkin by Marimekko, a Finnish design company known for its bold, colorful prints.

The other will be covered with moss.

"For me these chairs are really reflecting the two aspects of Nordic culture," Johnson-Danielson says.

Scandinavian art and design is often bright, cutting-edge and forward-looking, she says. "And then there's this real connection to nature at the same time. Everything is very rooted in nature even if it's extremely modern."

She says the chairs are an accessible and whimsical form of art.

"By having something as simple as a chair, and making it into art, that really follows the Scandinavian ethos of art and creative process," Johnson-Danielson says. "It's really a culture where form meets function in a whole different way."

If you go

* What: 32nd Annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival

* When: Friday through Sunday

* Where: Hjemkomst Center, Moorhead

* Admission: $10 advance, $12 at door. Youths ages 19 and younger admitted free.

* Info: (218) 833-5452 or