Each year, the Swede Day celebration in Rochester features activities meant to stir memories of the town’s past as well as encourage residents to look to its future.
Friday evening, the coronation of the 2019 Swede Day Court contained elements of both, thanks to proceedings that made note of the two anniversaries being celebrated this year — 80 years of Swede Hall and 40 years worth of Swede Days — and that recognized the opportunities ahead for the next generation of Swede Day royalty. The coronation marked the beginning of the festivities that carried on throughout Saturday with a parade, food and entertainment befitting the nordic backbone of Rochester.
A panel of three judges crowned Jessyka Ritzman the 2019 Swede Day Queen following speeches given by the three finalists, all juniors at Rochester High School. Anna Johnson earned runner up, followed by Emily Morris. The judges awarded the girls’ scores based on their speeches and a pair of interviews that took place earlier in the day.
“As I stand here in front of so many people from my own community, I find myself full of pride and nerves at the same time,” Ritzman said during her speech. “This small town has been by my side through a lot … In 2009, I was crowned a Swede Day Sweetheart. Life has changed so much in these 10 years, but in the next 10 years, I know this community will still be here enriching the lives of those who come next. So, I thank you.”
Ritzman plans to study pediatric medicine in college and hopes to open her own practice in Rochester with a focus on specialized care. During her speech, she recalled a family member suffering serious injuries that required care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
She also told a story about how during the summer before she entered the sixth grade, she decided that no matter the obstacles ahead, she would obtain a college education. Thus, she began to study for college entrance exam, until she was informed it was not necessary to do so while in middle school.
“Being from a small town is so amazing,” Ritzman said. “But, to get specialized care, you know it can mean driving to Seattle, and that’s not always an option for people.”
Johnson and Morris also spoke of how growing up in a small town has proven beneficial as they begin to consider the next steps in their lives. Johnson plans to study psychology in college and will visit Northern Arizona University later this summer. Morris said she hopes to become an ultrasound technician.
“It’s truly amazing that I’m able to take part in such a wonderful experience in a town I’ve spent my entire life in,” Morris said. “… If I learned anything from living here, it’s that any person can find they have a community standing strong around them.”
Prior to the introduction of the three finalists, Donna Weaver spoke on behalf of the Rochester Citizens Group, which has overseen much of Swede Day since its inception. She gave a brief history of how Swede Hall and Swede Day came to be and have been maintained on the back of volunteer labor, which also installed “the best dance floor in the county” many decades ago.
Weaver also thanked state Reps. Richard DeBolt and Ed Orcutt for their help in securing nearly $200,000 in state funds for needed renovations to ensure Swede Hall remains a centerpiece of the community for decades to come. The building needs repairs to its foundation and other structural upgrades such as new windows and weather-proofing.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of community support, but some of these maintenance needs were over our heads,” Weaver said. “We could not have done it without funding granted this year. In that, I would like to recognize (Orcutt and DeBolt) for helping us get through the process to do some major things and carry this building on to the next generation.”