The mission of Vasa Park Association is to preserve, educate, and promote the Scandinavian heritage, culture, customs and traditions. We accomplish this by providing facilities at Vasa Park for events and Activities for Vasa Order of America members, Scandinavian, and those interested in Scandinavian culture.
Vasa Park Information and Background
Our “Vasa Park” property has been continuously owned and operated since 1947, with the first official picnic event held August 27, 1950. The Vasa Park Association is a cultural, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote Scandinavian – American culture and fellowship. To offset our maintenance and philanthropic expenses, the Association has partnered with respectable business people who share our low-impact values and operate family recreation and summer camps. Our primary activities have always included Swedish cultural events, family and company picnics, birthday parties, school events, swim lessons and outdooreducational programs. Our current Lessee, Camp Keystone/Team Play Events run by Mr. Larry Klein, has been our partner for well over 20 years and understandsthe needs of balancing safety, community and business interests while preserving our rural recreational feel. Vasa Park is the realization of a dream which grew out of the activities of the Swedish community and the desire to maintain and strengthen our cultural heritage in the United States
Brief History of Our Organization
In the latter part of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, immigration from Sweden to the United States was at its peak. As the immigrants arrived, they established crucial social welfare societies to build communications and to assist one another in learning the ways of the “new” county. In 1896 four of these Swedish societies united in Connecticut and formed what was eventually incorporated as the Vasa Order of America. In 1906 in the City of Los Angeles, the “Norden” society was founded as a fraternal Swedish sick benefit society and on year later in 1907 North Star Lodge was formed as the first Vasa Order of America affiliate in southern California.
The early Los Angeles members spread their enthusiasm and influence to bring other Vasa lodges into existence on the Pacific coast. In addition to meeting, education and fellowship activities, Lodge members also performed theatre plays, traditional folk dance events and organized picnics. Starting in 1921 a large annual Swedish summer pageant was held each year at the public Sycamore Grove Park in Los Angeles. The annual “Vasa Midsummer” event was well attended by the Swedish lodge members expanding throughout the area. After WWII, the idea for a Vasa-owned park property to be used by Los Angeles-based Swedish lodges continued to be nurtured and a committee was formed. The “Vasa Committee” consisted of representatives from District Vasa lodges. In 1947 our property was purchased and the Vasa Park Association was created.
Development of Vasa Park
The green rolling hills, seasonal stream and hundreds of native trees which cover the property were reminders not only of the Swedish homeland but also of Sycamore Grove Park in Los Angeles where so many annual Scandinavian Midsummer picnic gatherings had been celebrated. After finding their property, the Vasa members rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They dug a main well to provide sufficient water and the first Vasa-Day picnic was held in 1950. Other early building projects including a pageant stage, folk dance floor, swimming pool, shade patios and a replica of a Scandinavian water powered mill. By the latter part of 1950’s enough structures were present to allow hosting of the annual Midsummer picnics. The annual Scandinavian Midsummer picnic was then moved from the public park in Los Angeles to our own Vasa Park where it has been held ever since. The 2020 picnic will herald the 100th anniversary of Midsummer in Los Angeles and celebrated by five generations of Swedes. As the years passed, it became increasingly more expensive to manage property compliance and infrastructure costs for maintenance of the grounds, buildings and to host picnics. There was also a desire to add features to the park to increase enjoyment of the members and public. A decision was made to allow a theme compatible, revenue-sharing business to operate on the property during the non-picnic times. This also provides an income stream to help defray expenses of the local Swedish lodges, enable scholarship grants for members and allow outreach support for other non-Vasa Scandinavian events in the Los Angeles area.
Vasa Park Today
Over 70 years later, Vasa Park continues to remain true to our Scandinavian heritage and founders ideals. Currently there are three major Scandinavian picnics held at our park each year:
- Spring Fest
- Autumn Fest with Marknad (Scandinavian open-air market) along with our now famous meatball contest
All of these well-attended festivals are for Vasa members and the general public. Scandinavian heritage and traditions are on display and allow our Vasa members to connect with one another, teach our youth by example and strengthen our cultural bonds.
For all family and recreational programs held at the park, planning and execution is a critical part of the process. Our Lessee is an expert in group activities management and shares our desire to be a community asset and a good neighbor. Significant investments made in engineered sound equipment, continuously improving best safety practices and people training keep noise and congestion to a reasonable and legal level. As a matter of general practice, activities at the park are held primarily during the day and cancelled when high sustained wind – red flag conditions exist.
The traditions of the early Swedish immigrants to Southern California live on at Vasa Park. The cultural use of this park for its intended purposed must be protected and preserved for future generations.