Jordbruksdagarna provides fall fun, Swedish style

Talbot Fisher, GateHouse Media Illinois
T.J. Conner of Galva shows off his sticky hands Sunday at Jordsbrukdagarna while making bricks.

The 46th annual Jordbruksdagarna, or “earth work days,” concluded Sunday in Bishop Hill. The two-day autumn festival engulfed the little Swedish settlement with visitors throughout Village Park and the shops around town.

Leaves fell on those dining on “colony stew” and hardtack, while others dined on pork burgers and extra-long Swedish-style hot dogs in the shade of the Colony Store.

Numerous vendors of antiques, kettle korn, flowers, produce and more lined the park, including one a little different from the rest.

Jackie DeMeyer of Lynn Center was selling soap and lotions made with goat’s milk.

“It’s lye-based,” said DeMeyer, who has been making soap this way for 11 years. “It’s a cold process, and the mixing of the goat’s milk, oils and lye creates a chemical reaction.”

She displayed an enormous variety of scents, including the classics like sandalwood and vanilla to the more creative, such as “hello sweet thang,” “shave and a haircut” and “monkey farts.”

Artisans demonstrated woodworking, rug hooking, forging, rope making and more.

Kate Davis and her children, Taylor, 12, Anna, 10, and William, 6, came from Geneseo to partake in the festivities.

Anna explained how her jump rope was made, saying, “they attached strings on the ends and these parts spin and make the rope.”

William, despite earlier denying learning anything, jumped in to further explain.

However, he was mostly looking to visit the candy store at the end of the day, as he wanted “the big chocolate coin,” he said.

Taylor was most impressed by the wooden spoons being turned out at the woodworking tent.

Behind the Bjorklund Hotel, big “Connie,” a draft horse, worked hard at turning press in the process of making sorghum. Children made bricks with muddy clay and dolls from corn husks; they also made apple cider and shelled corn by a cranked machine.

The clay bricks dried in the sun as the temperatures rose into the upper 80s, but the festival continued strong despite the heat, with children’s games and Nordic dancers happening in the park.

Todd DeDecker, Bishop Hill Heritage Association administrator, could be seen helping out during the festival.

“It’s been such a great weekend,” he said.