In a World of Sharp Elbows, There is the Gentle Excellence of Lindsborg

Lindsborg is a sweet little place with a population of only 3,500. Established almost 150 years ago by Swedish immigrants on the remote Great Plains, today’s Lindsborg is among’s 100 best American small towns. Here friendliness and access still live alongside the truly remarkable.

The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery is full of its namesake’s landscape paintings, each layered thick with oils. In a world where even small Sandzen oils now trigger jockeying and bidding, Lindsborg enjoys walls full of the Paris and Stockholm trained artist’s best and largest works. That’s the rhythm of Lindsborg.

It’s difficult to imagine hardscrabble Swedish immigrants leaving their life-sustaining chores to learn English as part of a Victorian-sized chorus performing Handel’s masterwork, Messiah. This coming year is the 136th consecutive performance of Messiah in Lindsborg. At other times there is chamber music on Sundays, open mic nights at restaurants and pubs, Broadway show tunes under the stars.

On the outskirts of Lindsborg is the hilltop Coronado Heights, setting everyone up for a sweeping view. Nearby is a wildlife preserve offers open-air rides close to its huge bison herd. Follow the tidy brick streets into a downtown with independent shops and galleries, from clothing designer and Scandinavian crafts merchant to a classic toy store and large selection of fairly traded goods from around the world. You can even duck into the gallery of a world-traveling National Geographic photographer who calls Lindsborg home.

Along the way is Scandinavian folk art — created before your eyes at the Hemslojd’s wood workshop and found also in a pop art herd celebrating the stubby, tail-less animal called the Dala horse. The swirl and bob of youthful Swedishstyle folk dancers in costumes are a signature to Lindsborg’s festivals such as the biennial fall Svensk Hyllningsfest, mid-June Midsummer’s and the pre-Christmas Lucia Festival.

Lindsborg sits alongside one of America’s last vast tracts of unbroken prairie; within an hour’s drive is a presidential library, large zoo, space museum and salt mine that takes visitors to the shadowland of mining and Hollywood film storage. Choose bed and breakfast in seasonal decor, an inn in Swedish country style, or new colorful vacation rentals in historically restored and contemporary locations.

Such is the rhythm of Lindsborg, where making meaning — at every scale — is coin of the realm.