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News from the Keweenaw Peninsula

January 19, 2004

Heikinpäivä welcomes crowds to Hancock

HANCOCK -- A few hours of respite from a week of very cold temperatures (with a Saturday reported high temperature of 26º F), along with fresh snow for the Heikinpäivä Hiihto ski races, helped make the Jan. 17, 2004, Heikinpäivä events a success. Nevertheless, strong winds that picked up in mid-afternoon for the kids' races made skiers -- young and old -- and parents grateful for the warmth of the new Maasto Hiihto Chalet.

Drew Mayer, followed by other young skiers, crosses the finish line of the 1K race for the youngest participants in the Heikinpäivä Hiihto races.

Drew Meyer, 6, of Hancock crosses the finish line of the 1K race for the youngest skiers during the Heikinpäivä Hiihto ski races held Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Maasto Hiihto ski trails. Drew was third in his age group and fourth overall in the boys' 1K race. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Besides offering two new events, the wife carrying (Eukonkanto) and boot-throwing (Saapaanheitto) contests, Heikinpäivä, the annual mid-winter celebration of ethnic identity created by the City of Hancock's Finnish Theme Committee, attracted large crowds for its tori (marketplace) inside the Finnish-American Heritage Center, Saturday morning parade, Friday and Saturday night dances (in South Range and Hancock), whipsled (vipukelkka), buffet dinner (Seisovapöytä), Polar Bear Dive and ski races at Maasto Hiihto ski trails.

Mark Hepokoski of Boston Location, carrying his wife, Riikka, steps gingerly over bales of hay during the Eukonkanto (wife carrying) competition.

Mark Hepokoski of Boston Location, carrying his wife, Riikka, steps gingerly over bales of hay during the Eukonkanto (wife carrying) competition -- a new event this year -- held Saturday, Jan. 17, during the Heikinpäivä celebration near Hancock Middle School. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Heikinpäivä is named for St. Henrik’s day, Jan. 19, and offers local residents of Finnish heritage a chance to dress up in costumes taken from Finnish folklore and the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. A "bear" is present to remind everyone that the middle of winter is the time when the bear "rolls onto its other side" (Karhu kylkeänsä kääntää), "Heikki divides the hay" (Heikki heinät jakaa) and "winter’s back is broken" (Talven selkä poikki).

Four characters from Finnish and Scandinavian lore pose in colorful costumes in front of Hancock Middle School.

After the parade, these characters from Finnish and Scandinavian lore could be seen among the festivities in front of Hancock Middle School: from left, Judy Usitalo of Hancock appears as a Finnish "ghost"; Judy's daughter Kirsti Arko is Louhi of the Kalevala, while Kirsti's husband, Carl Arko, plays St. Henrik; and Vanessa Anderson of Hancock is Santa Lucia. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Considered the patron saint of Finland, St. Henrik, a 12th-century Englishman who became a Swedish bishop set out to convert Finns to the Christian faith but suffered a martyr's fate.*

Near the Finnish-American Heritage Center, Finnish American Reporter editors Jim Kurtti and David Maki, accompanied by Amy Maki, prepare prizes for the wife-carrying and boot-throwing events.

Preparing the prizes for the wife-carrying and boot-throwing contests are Jim Kurtti, left, editor of the Finnish-American Reporter, dressed in a traditional Saame winter outfit, and David Maki, assistant editor, accompanied by his wife, Amy Maki, center. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Outside the Finnish-American Heritage Center, a booth was set up with snacks and a small warm-up stove. Nearby, parents or older siblings treated the younger set to a ride on the whipsled (vipukelkka).

Two children ride the whipsled, while another waits his turn and waves them on.

These unidentified children are enjoying the whipsled (vipukelkka) during Heikinpäivä 2004. Does anybody know who they are? (Photo by Michele Anderson)

In Hancock approximately 40 percent of the population claimed Finnish ancestry in the most recent federal census.

In the outdoor snack booth, Jeffers High School students Samuel Kilpela, left, and his brother David Kilpela of Atlantic Mine sell baked goods to raise funds for the Chassell-Jeffers Finnish class trip to Finland scheduled for June 8-21, 2004.

In the outdoor snack booth, Jeffers High School students Samuel Kilpela, left, and his brother David Kilpela of Atlantic Mine sell baked goods to raise funds for the Chassell-Jeffers Finnish class trip to Finland scheduled for June 8-21, 2004. Samuel is one of 9 students hoping to raise the estimated $2,000 cost of the trip. Through distance learning, teacher Tricia Frantti is able to teach the Finnish language to students in both schools. The proposed trip will help students improve Finnish language skills, experience a different culture and make a connection with their Finnish heritage.** (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Inside the Finnish-American Heritage Center visitors enjoyed Finnish music played by Finn Hall (Keskilännen Pelimannit), a Finnish dance hall band from Minnesota, joined by Oren Tikkanen of Calumet and Alpha, and fiddler Ed Lauluma of Chassell. The musicians played in the Gallery, where Tradition Bearers: The Art of Finnish Weaving and Rug Making, is on exhibit until Feb. 9. This group exhibit features the weavings and braided rugs of artists Wynne Mattila, Lorri Oikarinen, Vivian Huotari, Carol Saari and Pirkko Karvonen. Tradition Bearers explores the enduring influence of traditional Finnish weaving practices in the work of these contemporary artists.

Weavers Lorri Oikarinen and Vivian Huotari discuss their work now on exhibit in the Finnish-American Heritage Center Gallery.

Lorri Oikarinen, left, of Calumet, and her apprentice Vivian Huotari --  two artists whose weaving work is exhibited in Tradition Bearers: The Art of Finnish Weaving and Rug Making at the Finnish-American Heritage Center -- demonstrate their art to a visitor. Oikarinen learned the art from her friend and teacher, Anna Lassila, who is Huotari's aunt. Other weavers whose whose work is in the exhibit are Wynne Mattila, Carol Saari and Pirkko Karvonen. The Tradition Bearers exhibit continues through Feb. 9 at the Center. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Inside the Center, the tori (marketplace) drew a very large crowd, attracted by fine Finnish-American crafts and ethnic food for sale.

Debbie Kurtti and assistants prepare Finnish specialties, including cardomon rolls, for tori customers.

Inside the tori (marketplace) at the Finnish-American Heritage Center, Debbie Kurtti prepares for a customer a plate of Finnish specialties she and husband Jim Kurtti cooked for Heikinpäivä. Assisting Debbie are Susan Mattila, left, and Sadie Sam (background). In the foreground, at right, are delicious cardomon rolls. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Artists and groups from surrounding communities brought their wares to the tori

Inside the tori (marketplace) members of the Pelkie Laestadian Lutheran Church describe the ingredients in Karelian pie (Piirakat).

Becky Johnson, right, and Pat Frantti, center, of the Pelkie Laestadian Lutheran Church describe the ingredients in a tasty Karelian pie (Piirakat) -- a kind of pastry with a crust of hearty grains and a rice custard filling, to be served with an egg butter topping. Assisting at left is Michigan Tech student Juho Ilkko of Oulunsalo, Finland. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

Saturday afternoon the Ramada Inn waterfront on the Portage Canal in Hancock was the scene of the famous Polar Bear Dive. Jim Kurtti reported at least 160 divers tested the frigid waters this year and enjoyed an immediate warm-up in the ice sauna (jääsauna), located between the Ramada waterfront and the Polar Bear Dive site.

A woman diver takes the plunge into the Portage Canal near the Ramada Inn during the Heikinpäivä Polar Bear Dive Jan. 17.

An unidentified Polar Bear diver takes the plunge into the Portage canal near the Ramada Inn waterfront in Hancock Saturday, Jan. 17, 2004. (Photo © 2004 by Finlandia University student Ay Araya of Takayama, Japan. Reprinted with permission.)

Another "first" for Heikinpäivä 2004, the ice sauna was constructed by master snow and ice architects from MTU's Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Nippa Sauna Stoves of Bruce Crossing provided the stove.

Editor's Notes: *See Jim Kurtti's story of St. Henrik on the Heikinpäivä Web site.

**If you wish to make a donation to the Chassell-Jeffers Finnish Class Finland trip, send a check (payable to Tricia Frantti) to Tricia Frantti, Finnish Language Teacher, 22399 Broemer Rd., Chassell, MI 49916 or contact Chassell Township Schools.

See Page 2 for photos of the Heikinpäivä Hiihto ski races.

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