There’s a tradition in Nordic countries to have a crayfish festival in August.
It originated in Sweden where they would call it a kraftskiva to coincide with the late summer crayfish harvest and it’s become one of the most important social events in Scandinavia.
Our new big Swedish retail outlet, IKEA, is doing its best to keep the tradition alive locally having just organized its second annual crayfish fest on Tue. Aug. 16.
It’s not for the culinary challenged though for the custom is to rip off the head of the crayfish and suck out the juices before getting to the succulent meat inside. It should be mentioned that copious amounts of Akavit, a Swedish liquor does help.
Traditionally it would be a raucous outdoor event with people wearing funny hats and singing drinking songs. Imagine music and singing emanating from balconies and gardens all over the country until well past midnight with flickering candlelight coming from festive lanterns as the evening darkens.
IKEA however hosted it in their second floor restaurant in a privately cordoned off area, but the atmosphere was just as festive.
If you’re not into crustacean decapitation there were also other Swedish delicacies to choose from such as gravlax – Nordic sushi, meatballs, hardtack, salads, Swedish style desserts and ample amounts of pickled herring.
But the mainstay was heaped piles of crayfish. 120 kg of which was served through the course of the evening.
275 people came out to enjoy the event and they occupied about half of our city’s largest licensed restaurant. They were serenaded throughout their dinner by the Sill-i-Tones, a local Scandinavian folk group who provided a background of traditional live music.
Then upon cue the diners would all raise their glasses and join in with communal singing, Helan Gar a traditional Swedish drinking song and several other contemporary standards with the words somewhat re-worked.
Sonja Lundstrom who is known locally for all things Swedish was instrumental in organizing and promoting the event. And judging by the number of enthusiastic revelers present, did a great job.
If you’re of Swedish descent it’s an event not to be missed.
And if you think biting the head off a crayfish and sucking out the juice is a bit gross of the Swedes then you should definitely avoid the Finnish Lutefisk festival just before Christmas. That would be cod preserved in lye.