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Lindsborg celebrates 150 years with first Living Dala

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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