Heikinpäivä 2002 filled with firsts and fun
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Page 2: More about the lumitalo and other Heikinpäivä events,
including the Polar Bear Dive
Although technically not an "official" part of Heikinpäivä (Its
construction was not conceived or underwritten by the festival's organizers, the
City of Hancock's Finnish Theme Committee), this mid-winter's celebration of
Finnish culture seemed the natural day to unveil this unique structure because
of its Finnish origins.
|Lumitalo, snow house, architect Seppo
of Oulu, Finland, poses in front of one of his creations, the
Hancock snow house, as visitors enjoy its grand opening during the
Heikinpäivä Festival. (Photo © 2002 Bill Fink. Printed with
permission.) (See Editor's Note.)
The lumitalo is a miniature version of full-scale hotels built
entirely form snow and ice in Finland and Sweden called lumilinna, snow
castles. They draw hundreds of thousands of tourists.
An overflow crowd of spectators filled the small yard surrounding the
structure located on the corner of Quincy Street and Ryan Street in Hancock for
the ribbon cutting ceremony that followed the parade. For several hours after
the ceremony, a steady stream of visitors filed through the structure or enjoyed
good Finnish coffee at tables made of snow and ice surrounded by panels
depicting scenes from the Kalevala painted by students from Hancock High
For Jo Lorichon, wife of Pat Coleman, president of U.P. Engineers and
Architects, Inc. (Coleman was in large part responsible for bringing Mäkinen
and the lumitalo to the area), part of the fascination with the snow
structure is that it helps folks revisit their childhood -- with one difference:
"People can go into the snow drift (fort) they had as a child and this time
they can stand up."
|Heikinpäivä visitors inspect the interior of
Hancock's lumitalo, snow house. (Photo © 2002 Bill Fink. Printed
Those spectators who lined up along the banks of the Portage Canal at the
Ramada Inn to watch the Polar Bear dive were not disappointed as the largest
field of contestants ever -- 66 in all, nearly a third women -- donned a myriad
of creative costumes or exhibited equally creative plunging techniques as they
competed to capture the coveted Heikinpäivä medals for most unusual costume,
best dive and most unusual plunge.
|Karen Storm of Hancock gets back into her fur
coat after taking the Polar Bear Plunge.
Roger Wickstrom of Chassell took home the gold for most unusual costume.
Drawing on his own Finnish roots in which he recalls his grandmother always
calling him "Paskahousu," ("kakka-pants") when he was a
toddler, he dressed with an oversized brown-stained diaper, cape and tee-shirt
emblazoned with bold letters reading Pikko "Paskahousu" Poika, little
"kakka-pants" boy, to take his dives into the Portage.
"I'm just celebrating my Finnish -American heritage," said
Wickstrom, who took two dives.
Most unusual plunge honors went to Scott Miles of Hancock who decked out with
blaze orange ribbons at his wrists, ankles, head and waist, stopped at the edge
of the icy opening in the ice and went through an elaborate ritual of prayer and
crossing himself before stepping off into the frigid waters. Best dive honors
went to Joe Butsil.
Fire was the final festival first as a kokko, a bonfire built of
Hancock's abandoned Christmas trees, lit up and warmed the waterfront of Porvoo
Park and the 50 or so spectators who were on hand to witness the end of Heikinpäivä
|Spectators watch the dancing flames of the kokko, a bonfire made of discarded Christmas trees, the closing
event of this year's Heikipäivä celebration.
"It gets bigger and better and more colorful each year," exclaimed
Hancock resident Merle Niemi Kindred, watching the flames of the bonfire
And with the dying flames, Finnish Theme Committee member Jim Kurtti jokingly
summed up his relief at pulling together and surviving yet another year of the
hard work and planning needed to pull together a successful Heikinpäivä
"The entire Finnish Theme Committee was found face down in a snow bank
after the event," Kurtti said; but on a more serious note he added,
"It was a big success!"
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