• Abigail Hall

Lindsborg celebrates 150 years with first Living Dala

Originally published by Wichita Eagle July 5, 2019.

For many, July 5th means bustling back to work, cleaning up after an Independence Day party the night before, or even enjoying a four-day weekend — but for residents of Lindsborg, it’s a day to celebrate the Living Dala.

On Friday, Lindsborg, Kansas, known as Little Sweden, celebrated 150 years of township by creating a live dala horse — a typically wooden-carved, rounded and painted horse, and known Swedish icon — in an aerial photo.

About 450 community members of all ages gathered in white or red t-shirts at 10 a.m. to get into position to create the Living Dala.

The Lindsborg Sesquicentennial 150th committee instructed participating individuals to stand in place on a dala drawn in chalk between Lincoln and Main streets of the town square. Participants wearing red t-shirts, represented the dala’s body, while those wearing white shirts represented the dala’s halter and saddle, said Betty Nelson, committee co-chair.

The Living Dala is just one of four days of celebration, including an ABBA tribute concert and a free community barbecue.

While the Living Dala was a first for Lindsborg, Nelson said the community gathering to support one another is simply a marker of the town.

“We are a community definitely built on volunteers,” Nelson said. “We really are. I love this town — it would be hard for me to consider living anywhere else.”

Founded in 1869 by Swedish immigrants, the town still proudly embodies the legacy of its founders, with a prominent Swedish flag billowing over the town square, and a herd of dala horse statues painted with vibrant colors standing guard outside local businesses.

Lindsborg adopted the dala horse as its town symbol in the 1970s, and has since developed a kinship with the icon.

When the committee gathered to plan for the 150th celebration, Marge Lloyd brought forth the idea of creating the Living Dala photo as a way to celebrate the community.

The Living Dala was also important to Lloyd for another reason — to pay tribute to her mother.

Lloyd’s mother, Margaret Johnson, was the first artist commissioned by the City of Lindsborg to create a dala for the town. Johnson began with one dala to be displayed outside the Chamber of Commerce, but then decided to hang a smaller version outside the family hardware store.

“And then the next door neighbor wanted one,” Lloyd said. “And then my grandma wanted one and my aunt wanted one — and then pretty soon they had done over three thousand of them over a period of years.”

Today, the Dala is a tourist attraction and a popular souvenir in Lindsborg, created and sold at local shops like Hemslojd, a Swedish gift shop, which has sold more than 45,000 dalas, Lloyd said.

“I’m so pleased and I hope Mom’s happy,” Lloyd said. “This is a unique place. This isn’t everywhere you go.”

Lindsborg’s festivities will continue until Sunday.

To join in on dala fun, the activities are as follows:

  • ABBA tribute band concert, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Heritage Square, 120 E. Mill St. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17, free for those under 5 at the gate.

  • Community BBQ, 6 p.m. Saturday at Swensson Park, 400 N. Main St. Admission is free.

  • Sesquicentennial Fireworks Show, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 780 N. Kansas St. Admission is free.

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