There are a lot of reasons why the FinnFest USA 2013 organizing committee started planning three years ago. The 5-day event which takes place in the Copper Country from June 19-23 is more than just a fun celebration. It’s a cultural phenomenon, it’s a lifeline and it’s coming home, for some. That’s why the event spans a myriad topics and an entire region of the Upper Peninsula.
This region has an incredible amount of Finnish-American history that celebrates an important anniversary this year. A hundred years ago, labor disputes in the mining towns changed how immigrants, including Finnish-Americans, were treated. Also 100 years ago, 73 people died in the Italian Hall Disaster, 55 of whom were Finnish-American. These historic events, which took place here in the Keweenaw Peninsula, are a part of what make Finnish-American events, where these people come together and celebrate their culture, especially meaningful. Finnish-Americans share this common history and, with the 100th anniversary, it makes sense that FinnFest 2013 would take place in this region.
Throughout the 5-day event, there are lectures in Houghton but also trips to the places where these events happened. In Calumet, there will be a memoriam for the Italian Hall Disaster on Thursday, June 20.
Most importantly, FinnFest 2013 has the potential to drastically increase the population of the Copper Country during the event. The organizing committee is anticipating numbers similar to 2005’s Marquette FinnFest which reached 2,500 registered participants and 10,000 participants who didn’t register but attended one or more of the events. Not only does this give a lot of people the chance to appreciate and celebrate Finnish-American culture, but it shows people the beauty of the Upper Peninsula while boosting the local economy.
Jim Kurtti of the planning committee has said that he hopes people will visit the U.P. and plan to return on a future vacation. Because not only is the Keweenaw the “nesting place” of Finnish-American roots, but, as we all know, it’s just a beautiful place to be.
Not only does this event bring Finnish-Americans to the Upper Peninsula, but it also brings Finnish people. Over 400 people from Finland have registered for the event and connections have been made with the Finnish government. Not only has the Finnish goverment vocalized support but it has also donated money to help make the event successful.
One of the primary themes of the event is business innovation. One whole day during FinnFest, as an auxiliary event, a business forum will be held for Finnish, Finnish-American and Copper Country business officials alike to share ideas and network. The hope is that connections will be made to expand business relations between these regions, but also that Finnish businesses will consider the Upper Peninsula as a gateway to American enterprise.
Beyond business, there are other ways that the organizing committee hopes to educate the Upper Peninsula region about ways we can learn about Finnish culture. With an emphasis on healthy eating and exercise, the LA Finnish consulate’s chef will be giving cooking demonstrations, and on Saturday, June 22, there will be an attempt to break the record for Nordic Walking (don’t worry, there are workshops throughout the week to teach this Scandinavian exercise.
When the organizing committee started planning for FinnFest 2013 three years ago, they knew they couldn’t just have it only in Houghton/Hancock. It had to span the whole Keweenaw Peninsula. As this region that holds so much history, it will also hold a lot of fun activities for FinnFest 2013. Everything related to the event can be found at the website, FinnFestUSA2013.org, including information about registration and the festival guide.
This post was contributed by Lucy Hough, a freelance writer from Marquette. She’s also a master’s student at NMU. You can also follow her on Twitter at @yes_lucy.