A century ago
The American mid-West was a magnet for immigration from Scandinavia, and Minneapolis was where they came to buy snus (snuff) and Nordic newspapers, and be entertained in their own languages. Dania Hall in the Cedar-Riverside district offered music hall and variety in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.
The main street in a Scandinavian neighborhood was known in those days as “Snoose Boulevard”. In Chicago that was Chicago Avenue; in St Paul, Payne Avenue; and in Minneapolis, Cedar Avenue.
In the 1970s
The immigrants prospered and, as in so many immigrant neighborhoods, dispersed to wealthier suburbs. Rents in Cedar-Riverside remained low and the 1960s saw it colonised by students, artists, and hippies.
In the 1970s folklorist and musician Maury Bernstein organized in Cedar-Riverside the Snoose Boulevard Festival, a weekend-long revival and celebration of the songs popular along Cedar Avenue between the 1880s and early 1950s. There was dancing, and the street rang to the lively and melancholy songs of the Scandinavian pioneers.
The 1973 festival was carried on 102 National Public Radio stations throughout the U.S., and was broadcast on Swedish radio and television. Three LP collections were released:
- Memories of Snoose Boulevard
- Return to Snoose Boulevard
- Scandinavian in the New Land
Little remains of this today in Cedar-Riverside. The Cedar Cultural Center endures as a music venue but you are more likely to hear hip hop than “Hälsa Dem Därhemma”. The Acadia Café and other bars too remain live music venues. The current generation of immigrants is Somali. Snoose Boulevard is a fading memory, headed for university and folklore archives.
The Snoose Boulevard Project aims to celebrate that memory, and preserve the immigrants’ music for the enjoyment of future generations.