Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi is planning to visit Juhannus ’17
by David Maki
Assistant Editor, The Finnish American Reporter
A member of the Finnish Foreign Ministry staff in Washington, D.C. has frequently reminisced about her visit to Michigan’s Copper Country during FinnFest USA 2013 and longed for ways to return to the area.
So, when she had her choice of official visits on which she could accompany Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, she wasted no time in making her preference known.
That’s why she’ll be traveling with Ambassador Kauppi this June to take part in a festival aptly named Juhannus ’17, a three-day, four-site event set for June 23-25 that will celebrate the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s enduring Finnish culture in communities that are among the most distinctly Finnish enclaves anywhere in North America.
Ambassador Kauppi has been intending to visit the Copper Country since she assumed her post as Finland’s Ambassador to the United States several years ago.
And she’ll see the area at its finest. The community leaders who brought FinnFest USA to the Copper Country four years ago have collaborated with leaders in several Finnish-American communities in the Western U.P. and created a festival that’ll combine many of the elements that made that FinnFest a lasting positive memory for nearly all of the 8,000-or-so people who took part during that wonderful week in 2013.
Juhannus ’17 gets under way on Friday, June 23 at the Hanka Homestead in the Baraga County village of Askel. From the time the Finnish flag is raised early in the afternoon, through to when the last note fades into the wilderness from the tanssilava (outdoor dance floor) this restored Finnish immigrant farmstead will be abuzz with cultural activity, ranging from music, re-enactments, and plenty of tasty treats. Noted log building expert Frank Eld of Boise, Idaho – of “Finnebago” fame – will be on hand to present, and famed Finnish fiddler Arto Järvelä will be there providing folk music instruction. The Finnish-American brass band Ameriikan Poijat and the Pasi Cats will provide dance music for the evening.
It’ll also be the first official Copper Country stop for the Traveling Sauna, which is Finland’s North American mascot for its centenary celebration. The sauna, named “Sisu,” will be at all of the Juhannus ’17 festival sites.
After the fun at Hanka, the festival pops up the next morning at the Finnish American Heritage Center, on the Finlandia University campus in Hancock. At the Center, patrons can enjoy a ceremony featuring Ambassador Kauppi as the Finnish flag is raised adjacent to the Center’s Juhannussalko (Midsummer pole). There’ll be a tori inside the center, as well as the regular Hancock outdoor tori and an art fair on Quincy Green immediately east of the FAHC. The Ameriikan Poijat will provide music for the event, and the Kivajat Dancers will showcase their skills.
Minnesota-based genealogist Greg Isola will offer two presentations that morning; “Topics in Modern Finnish Genealogy” and “A History of the Quincy Hill Scandinavian Church.” Both of these will take place at the Chapel of St. Matthew on the Finlandia campus. Arto Järvelä will also spend some time at the chapel offering music instruction. The afternoon concludes with a reception for Finnish-American artist Tammy Santti-Kero at the Community Arts Center.
Later that day, guests are invited to Agate Beach, near Toivola, where that community’s residents will be celebrating the village’s 125th anniversary, as well as the time-honored tradition of the Juhannus kokko (bonfire) along the shore of Lake Superior. Frank Eld will give another log building presentation at the Agate Beach Hall at 4 p.m., and the flag will be raised at 6 p.m. – keeping with Finnish midsummer tradition. After an evening of wonderful music and fellowship, Ambassador Kauppi will light the bonfire – which has taken place annually here since the late 1800s – at approximately 9 p.m.
Along with food, fun and fire, there will be plenty of live music to which patrons can dance the Midsummer night away. Both Ameriikan Poijat and FinnFolk – a Detroit-area band – have agreed to provide tunes for the evening’s dance.
Then, on Sunday, June 25, the festival concludes with a full day of programming in the Finnish-American village of Bruce Crossing. Situated at the crossroads of U.S. 45 and M-28 in Ontonagon County, Bruce Crossing boasts a long and storied history of Finnish-American activity, much of which is centered at the Settlers’ Co-operative, which still operates today. The traveling sauna will be set up just outside the Co-op, near the site where the Heritage Wall will be dedicated.
Settlers’ Co-op is celebrating its centennial in 2017, and at 4 p.m., festival-goers are invited to attend the premiere screening of a documentary film about the Co-op and its 100 years of serving the community. The film is the latest work by Bruce Crossing native Kristin Ojaniemi, who has dedicated the last several months to producing this film, including a trip to Finland in the spring to interview Finnish cooperative experts. The film, which is supported by the Finnish American Heritage Center, will be shown in the VFW Hall, across M-28 from the Co-op.
After the film, there will be a dance at the Hall, where folks can wrap their festival experience by dancing the night away to the tunes of FinnFolk.
For detailed information about Juhannus ’17, visit www.finlandia.edu/juhannus, or find the festival on Facebook.