Saturday, August 25, 2007

A day at the Houghton County Fair: Photos coming soon

Rooster and geese at the Houghton County Fair. Video © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu.

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Now photographer Gustavo Bourdieu interviewed these Houghton County Fair celebrities, our first movie stars, on August 25, 2007. Watch for photos of the fair, coming soon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pasi Cats to play Finnish dance music in Dollar Bay Aug. 24

The Pasi Cats are pictured here playing for a Lavatanssit (Finnish Dance Hall dance) at the Centennial Pavilion in Chassell, Mich., on August 11, 2006. (Photo © 2006 Gustavo Bourdieu)

HOUGHTON -- The Pasi Cats Finnish Dance Band will be playing music beginning at 7 p.m. tonight, Friday, Aug. 24, at the Dollar Bay beach pavilion. Led by Pasi Lautala, a Michigan Tech grad student from Finland in Civil Engineering, on accordion and lead vocals, the energetic musicians play and sing a variety of Finnish music (in both Finnish and English), from the 1940s to the present, including waltzes, polkas, tangos, jenkka, country and humppa. The other band members have all adopted Finnish names for their musical roles: Raimo Aamukinkku (Randy Wakeham), base and vocals; Kerkko Kaunispoika (Mike LaBeau), drums and vocals; Paris (Bob) Hiltunen, electric guitar and vocals; Kullervo (Keith) Rintala, electric guitar and vocals; Ori (Oren) Tikkanen, mandolin and vocals.

Volunteers needed for Democratic booth at County Fair Aug. 24, 25

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton County Democratic Party still needs volunteers for their booth at the Houghton County Fair for the following times:
Friday, Aug. 24 -- 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 -- 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If you can volunteer, please contact Barb Turuc-Mills at 482-8738 or

Thursday, August 23, 2007

City of Hancock Planning Commission to meet Aug. 27

HANCOCK -- The potential sale of waterfront lots in the City of Hancock's Government Lot 5 near Swedetown Creek will again be a subject of discussion for the Hancock Planning Commission at their next monthly meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 399 Quincy Street.

Here is the agenda:

Call to order, Roll Call.

Minutes of July 23, 2007


Update on water system improvement project.
Finlandia University new President’s Inauguration
Portage Health Bridge Walk, 9 a.m. Labor Day
New Transit Busses
Phi Kappa Tau 50th Anniversary
State Police Post Status
Recent State Billboard legislation
Traffic Flow Committee Update.


1. Review correspondence on Gov’t Lot 5*
2. Review survey of Gov’t Lot 5
3. Discuss and Consider recommendation to City Council on sale of lots in Gov’t Lot 5.
4. Review with Pat Coleman, Principal, U.P. Engineers and Architects, draft access management ordinance amendment and appendix.


1. Review ISO Class 5 Fire Insurance rating, down from Class 6.



Planning Commission meetings are open to the public.

See Keweenaw Now articles "Hancock Council hears public opposition to proposed land sale" (July 23, 2007) , "Planning Commission hears public comment on proposed waterfront sale" (Aug. 6, 2007) and "Swedetown Creek comments requested" (Aug. 11, 2007) for background on the potential sale of Government Lot 5 lots bordering on Swedetown Creek and on Portage Lake (for residential housing). The articles discuss public comments by residents opposed to the potential sale of these lots because of their proximity to the recreational area at the mouth of Swedetown Creek, which includes a boat launch suitable for kayaks, canoes, etc., and a wetland and forested area.

*At their July 23 meeting, the Planning Commission responded to public comments on the Swedetown Creek issue by welcoming written comments and by requesting a survey of the entire Government Lot 5 to assist the commission in studying the use of the property as requested by the City Council.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Calumet Heritage Celebration: Photos

Photos © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu for Keweenaw Now

CALUMET -- Keweenaw Now's photographer, Gustavo Bourdieu, wandered around Main Street Calumet's Heritage Celebration in Agassiz Park last Saturday, Aug. 18, and took these photos for readers of our new blog.

Krista Cone, center, Miss Coppertown 2007, reigned over the Calumet Heritage Celebration last weekend. Pictured with her are other candidates Kelsey Johnson, right, and Kelsey Eddleman. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Helen Stimac, right, of Dodgeville, president of the Croatian Fraternal Union, and Julia Simila of Calumet, active member of the Union, worked all day Saturday, Aug. 18, selling povitica, a delicious Croatian specialty and evidence of local Croatian pride. Here they pause for a photo with the Croatian flag. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Kaisa Ryding spent much of the afternoon painting faces for customers like this patient young man. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Wild Fowl Wood Carver Stuart M. Baird of Calumet exhibited these hand-carved treasures in one of the artist booths. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Baird's carving of a Broad-Winged Hawk is made of one piece of bass wood. In the written description of the carving, Baird writes that the sculpture took "approximately 600 hours of carving time" and another 100 hours for the painting. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Fiddlehead offered Celtic tunes for the Irish portion of this year's Heritage theme, "French and Irish." Pictured here, from left, are musicians Oren Tikkanen, Libby Meyer, Matt Durocher (?), Floyd Henderson (seated) and Joel Tepsa. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Maple Sugar Folk alternated with Fiddlehead to present the French part of the Heritage 2007 theme. Here Dave Bezotte at the keyboard leads the group in singing French Canadian songs. Also pictured here are, from left, Barry Pegg, Marcia Goodrich, Janet Wieber, Amanda Binoniemi (hidden in back), Barbara Lide (seated), Karin Schlenker and Deb McDowell (on mandolin). (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Evan Dixon, third from left, leads the Maple Sugar Folk in singing one of their favorite sing-along tunes, "Sur la Route de Berthier." Also pictured are, from left, Kelly Suvanto on fiddle, Oren Tikkanen on banjo, singers Barry Pegg, Amanda Binoniemi (hidden in back), Marcia Goodrich, Janet Wieber (also hidden, on spoons), Karin Schlenker, Barbara Lide (seated), Deb McDowell on mandolin and Dave Bezotte on keyboard. (Photo by Michele Anderson)

The Heritage horseshoe competition was well attended. Here the photo captures the horseshoe (circled in yellow) in mid-air. Click on any photo for a larger version. (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu)

Readers, feel free to post your comments on the Heritage Celebration. We welcome your additions of photo IDs for those we missed. Watch for more photos, coming soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Folklore research project seeks info on local Finnish-American musicians

By Hilary Virtanen

Hilary Virtanen, Copper Country native and graduate student of Scandinavian Studies and Folklore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be coming to the Upper Peninsula this month to interview descendants and acquaintances of Finnish-American musicians as part of an album compilation project conducted by Professor James P. Leary, also of the University of Wisconsin.

MADISON, WIS. -- Do you have traditional Finnish musicians in your family tree? Do you have any recollections of a musical neighbor from decades past? If you do, then I may be looking for you! My name is Hilary Virtanen, and I am a graduate student of Scandinavian Studies and Folklore at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, as well as a Copper Country native. In the last weeks of August, I plan to come to the Upper Peninsula in order to interview descendants and acquaintances of thirteen Finnish-American musicians recorded in 1938 by folklorist Alan Lomax, famed for his work with blues legends Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter and Muddy Waters.

Housed in the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, Lomax’s 1938 field recordings were known to a few and not widely available -- until now.

My research is part of an album compilation project conducted by Professor James P. Leary, also of the University of Wisconsin. Folk Songs From the Other America: Field Recordings From the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946 is Leary’s latest effort to preserve and promote the unique musical traditions that exist in the region. In this compilation, Leary will make previously unreleased recordings from three important folklorists who were contemporaries and colleagues: Lomax, Helene Stratman-Thomas and Sidney Robertson. This recording will not only add to the body of scholarly work on these collectors and the music they preserved, but it will also help to highlight the importance of the musicians themselves, both to their home communities and to the wider public.

The ultimate goal of this project is to include biographical details of all of the performers, as well as photographs when possible, in the record compilation. This research combines genealogical and archival research, but public involvement will provide the most human details to help bring these people and their music to the present. I have found many clues about these people and the lives they lived, and I hope to find more.

Here are some brief details of each of the performers. I invite the public to contact me if they would like more information on a given individual or if they have more information for me.

Selma Ilona Halinen of Allouez, possibly called Ilona, was born in the late 1870s, possibly in Finland. She married Moses Halinen and had two children, Lempi M. and Arthur Isaac. Aina Pitkänen Pohjola was born c. 1891 in Kuusamo, Finland. She married Santeri Pohjola, and had five children, one of whom, Robert (born Reuben), is known to have had a child, also named Robert.

Hjelmer Forster [possibly Yalmer] of 47 Pine Street in Calumet, was born c. 1893; and his wife was named Lillian. Another musician who lived with the Forster family is identified as Aapo Juhani. While Lomax was in Calumet, Aapo Juhani also performed a water ritual, showing Lomax that, as late as 1938, the skills of the legendary Finnish noita, a healer or wizard in Finnish folklore traditions, could still be found in the community.

Amanda Harkonen of Calumet was born c. 1887 and married to Herman Harkonen. Herman and Amanda had at least one child, named Lempi Amanda, in 1915. Henry Mahoski of Amasa served in World War II and passed away on May 14, 1986. It is possible that he had a son also named Henry. Frank Maki, is also of Amasa, but nothing else is known about him.

Kalle Kallio of Newberry was born c. 1884. Emil Maki, also of Newberry, is possibly Emil J. Maki, who lived from 1893 to 1957 and had a wife by the name of Jannie M. Maki. Pekka Aho of Calumet performed with his daughter, Lillian Aukee. In her book, Memento of Finland, Joyce Hakala featured Aho as one of the immigrant generation of kantele players that helped to bring the tradition to America.

The last two Finnish performers to be included in Leary’s compilation are Waino Hirvela and Kusti Simila. Hirvela, born in Tyrnava, Finland in 1880, lived in Iron Mountain, later moving to San Francisco. He played the kantele. Simila’s first name varies in the following forms: Kusti, Kustaa, August and Gust. He lived at some point in Corbin, Minnesota, of which he sings in the song recorded by Lomax. He was likely born c. 1881 and had a wife named Esther.

I will be in Upper Michigan in late August, and I hope to make contact with the descendants and acquaintances of these performers before this time so that I may meet them while I am visiting. This project is, however, ongoing; and I plan to continue this work as I come home for visits. Any and all information on these performers is of interest and greatly appreciated. I can be contacted by mail at 4208 Hegg Ave. Madison, WI 53716, by telephone at 608-223-0811, or by email at