Little Sweden USA

A blog about Lindsborg

With the continuing popularity of blogs and blogging, it should come as no surprise that world-class chess player Susan Polgar has a blog. What’s exciting is that she has made many postings about her recent visit to Lindsborg, including many photos of her and our other recent visitor, Mikhail Gorbachev.

For easy reference, here is the complete (as of 30 October 2005) list of Susan’s Gorbie visits Lindsborg and Chess for Peace related postings:

President Gorbachev and me

President Gorbachev, his assistant and me

Presiden Gorbachev and me

President Gorbachev making the first move

President Gorbachev, his daughter Irina and me

Press conference with President Mikhail Gorbachev

Playing some practice blitz games

Serene Lindsborg is now swamped with media and secret service

Beautiful and quiet night in Lindsborg before the showdown

Chess For Peace

Mikhail Gorbachev spent the day in Lindsborg today as part of the international Chess for Peace* initiative. Mr. Gorbachev attended the Chess Parade in the morning, held a press conference in the early afternoon, and made a few other appearances around town, notably at a chess match between Anatoly Karpov and Susan Polgar and concluding with an appearance at Presser Hall in the evening.

It’s a long story of how Mr. Gorbachev came to speak in Lindsborg, but the story begins with Mikhail (Misha) Korenman. Misha, a Bethany College professor, ultimately convinced Anatoly Karpov to open the first United States branch of his International School of Chess in Lindsborg. Karpov, in turn, is friends with Mikhail Gorbachev, and having enjoyed his visits to Lindsborg, easily persuaded Gorbachev to visit our fair little town.

We saw Gorbachev speak tonight, along with a capacity crowd of around 1500 people at Presser Hall on the Bethany College campus. He was very engaged and passionate as he answered questions from assistant managing editor of the Wall St. Journal Alan Murray. Topics included questions about Gorbachev’s meetings with President Reagan, his experiences in leading the Soviet Union during a time of so much change and so on. There was much applause when he noted the need for governments around the world to cooperate and work together to solve problems.

At the conclusion of their conversation, Mr. Gorbachev was presented an honorary degree from Bethany College, and the Lindsborg Children’s choir performed a song in honor of his visit. At the very end, two girls, dressed in Swedish costume, presented the former leader of the Soviet Union with flowers for peace. My last memory is of the grandfatherly Gorbie with his arms around the two young women who likely reminded him of his own grandchildren.

From humble farmland beginnings to having his finger on the button to spreading his message of peace around the world; what a journey! When I recall the very real fears of a major nuclear catastrophe present in the early 80’s and consider what Gorbachev and Reagan did to end those fears, I’m very thankful. It was an honor to be able to hear, first hand, his thoughts about the modern international political landscape.

* Chess for Peace is a non-profit organization created with the assistance of world chess champion Anatoly Karpov and is headquartered in Lindsborg, Kansas. The goal of Chess for Peace is to establish long-term relationships between young people from around the world utilizing chess as a vehicle to promote mutual understanding of shared problems.

The 2005 Svensk Hyllningsfest, Lindsborg’s biennial celebration to honor the Swedish pioneers who settled the Smoky Valley, has come and gone. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of attending my first Hyllningsfest in decades and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think I liked the Swedish Dancers best, but also enjoyed the parade and the other activities, including our visit to the Anton Pearson Gallery.

Watching Moneka dancing with her class reminded me of my first Hyllningsfest, shortly after we had first moved to Lindsborg. I was in the first grade and had already lived in Nebraska, Spain and Missouri (dad in the Air Force) prior to moving to Lindsborg. I suppose that as a result, dressing up in costume to perform Swedish dances didn’t really seem all that unusual. I do remember it was a bit hard remembering all the steps, and watching the youngest of the dancers, I think that’s still true today. (Thinking back, I realized my first Hyllningsfest happened a few weeks before JFK’s assasination; meaningless trivia, but interesting to me.)

No surprise, but I ended up taking hundreds of pictures. I’ve posted about 50 of the “keepers” up on Flickr in a Hyllningsfest photo set. Below are a few select images from Lindsborg’s Svensk Hyllningsfest 2005:

Yours truly, wearing my Swedish costume. Surpisingly, I don’t really mind wearing this getup a couple of times a year; it seems to add to the festive nature!

Mike in Swedish costume

Third graders performing a traditional Swedish dance:

young Swedish dancers

Lindsborg Middle School marching band; notice their Swedish costumes:

marching band in Swedish costume

Lindsborg string orchestra; also in Swedish costume:

string orchestra in Swedish costume

Something new this year at Hyllningsfest, the Allspel performance. Translated as “everyone plays”, this formed for the occasion group performed a few traditional Swedish songs on Saturday:

allspel (everyone plays)

And last, but not least, the 2005 Svensk Hyllningsfest Royal Couple, Jeanette and Harlan Shogren. I was classmates with their son Brad, and walked to school with him and his brothers for a number of years.

Hyllningsfest royalty

Enjoy all the above images, plus many more, at the Lindsborg Svensk Hyllningsfest 2005 photo set site.