FinnFest: Festival for Finnish Culture Lovers

The Fulbright Center and alumni of the Finnish Fulbright program participated generously in the 2013 FinnFest held in Hancock, MI, 18-23 June.  There were over 5,000 people in attendance, and some 200 lectures, Sámi-themed programming, musical performances, films, exhibits, tours, events of various types, and a Tori marketplace with 100 vendors selling Finnish crafts, design items (Marimekko, Iittala, etc.), books, CDs, and giving away information on Finnish education and Fulbright grant opportunities!

FinnFest program organizers selected 9 Fulbright alumni to present lectures or perform at FinnFest:

  • Ulla Aatsinki (2009) Americanization, Education, and Finnish Americans in the 1920s: Finnish Americans as Educators
  • Päivi Hakkarainen (2011) Hei Suomi! : Finnish Language Culture Lessons in a Finnish American School
  • Marlene Broemer (2000) Edith Södergran: Poet between Two Borders, Two Wars
  • Julene Johnson (2010) performed with ”Kantele Splash”
  • Paul Niemistö (1998) The Writing of ”Cornets and Pickaxes”: A Journey through Finnish American History; also performed with Ameriikan Poijat brass band
  • Tim Frandy (2010) 1) Sámi Noaidi Tales: Religious Shift and Tensions in Sámi Oral Traditions; 2) Lust, Labor and Lawlessness: The Bad Finn in Finnish American Folksong; 3) Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Birch Leaves, Leindeer, and Sustainability among Sámi Reindeer Herders
  • Arnold Alanen (1968) Making of ”Finns in Minnesota” published by Minnesota Historical Society Press 2012; Finnish Rural Buildings and Landscapes in Michigan’s UP
  • Sue Saffle (2000 Bicentennial Chair spouse) Toward a Collection of Finnish War Child Stories
  • Carl Rahkonen (1983) Martti Nisonen: Composer of the Copper Country (is a member of the FinnFest USA Board of Directors)

Also, Paul Niemistö’s newly published book Cornets & Pickaxes: Finnish Brass on the Iron Range was released for sale by North Wind Books at the Tori, and his brass septet, Ameriikan poijat performed several times, including at the Opening Ceremony flag raising.

Arnold Alanen not only lectured but guided a tour of Rural Finnish Buildings and Cultural Landscapes of the Copper Country. In addition, photos of cultural landscapes were on display at the exhibition Rural Reflections in Houghton’s Carnegie Museum of the Keweenaw. His recent book Finns in Minnesota published by the Minnesota Historical Society was available.

Alumni and family at FinnFest gathered for dinner together on mid-summer evening, 21 June 2013. This was a fine opportunity to bring alumni of different generations together to reminisce about the experiences in Finland and to compare how things have changed through the years. Everyone seemed to agree that their Fulbright year was one of the best times of their lives!

written by Suzanne Louis