Milwaukee begins planning for next U.S. song festival

Almost three decades after last hosting one, Milwaukee is organizing the next U.S. Latvian Song and Dance Festival (XIII Vispārējie Latviešu Dziesmu svētki ASV), scheduled July 4-8, 2012.

The nonprofit corporation that will oversee the festival was registered Jan. 23 with the Wisconsin Secretary of State’s Office, public documents show.

A number of preliminary steps have been completed or are underway, Ēriks Krūmiņš, a member of the American Latvian Association board of directors, told Latvians Online in an e-mail.

Some observers in the Latvian diaspora in recent years have expressed doubts about the continued viability of song festivals outside Latvia. Last summer’s festival in Indianapolis ended with a deficit and organizers now are seeking donations to erase it.

Traditionally the location of the next song festival is announced at the conclusion of the last festival. Milwaukee organizers had discussed hosting the festival, but a firm proposal was not available when the Association of Latvian Choirs (Latviešu Koru apvienība) met during the Indianapolis song festival. The association determines the host city. The association decided July 5 that if Milwaukee would not be willing to organize the festival, then another location would have to be found, said Andris Kursietis, chair of the Milwaukee organizing committee.

In the following months, organizers in Minneapolis also proposed that they could host the next festival. Minneapolis has never hosted the song festival, while Milwaukee did so in 1983. Milwaukee also hosted a regional song festival in 1956.

The choir association on Oct. 15 affirmed its decision to make Milwaukee the host city for the next festival.

Three days later, the Milwaukee organizing committee was confirmed, Kursietis said in an e-mail. Besides himself, members include Ernests Brusubārdis III, vice chair and music diretor; Vincents Dindzans, vice chair and information director; and Ildze Rudzīte, folk dance director.

Further details about the Milwaukee festival are expected to be announced soon, Krūmiņš said.

In the meantime, Latvian choirs and folk dancers are preparing for three other festivals coming up this year and next: the Latvian Nationwide Song and Dance Celebration scheduled July 5-12 in Rīga; the West Coast Latvian Song Festival scheduled Aug. 28-Sept. 1 in Ventura, Calif.; and the Latvian Song Festival in Canada planned July 1-5, 2009, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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