Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oren Tikkanen named Hankooki Heikki for Heikinpäivä 2008

HANCOCK -- Musician and storyteller Oren Tikkanen of Calumet is this year’s recipient of the Hankooki Heikki honor, which Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee bestows each year on a person or people whose commitment to preserving and promoting Finnish culture in the area goes above and beyond "normal" efforts. The Hankooki Heikki presides over the Heikinpäivä festivities, wearing the crown and robe that come with the honor.

Musician Oren Tikkanen, right, performs during Heikinpäivä 2007 with his young apprentice, fiddler Kelly Suvanto, who studied under the late fiddle master Ed Lauluma. Kelly is now playing mandolin under Tikkanen's direction. (Photo © 2007 Sharon Cuffe)

A regular with numerous Copper Country bands, Tikkanen plays a wide variety of instruments and an equally wide variety of tunes. He is well known in the Finnish communities of North America for his musical performances with several bands at festivals and dances. Tikkanen also recorded four albums with old friend and mentor Al Reko of St. Paul, Minnesota. The two musicians, who both sing in Finnish, have performed together many times at FinnFest USA programs, the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife and three times at Finland’s Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, among others.

In January 2007, Tikkanen was selected by the Michigan Traditional Arts Program as a "master folk musician" and began teaching his style of Finnish-American mandolin playing to apprentice Kelly Suvanto of Houghton. Along with mandolin techniques, she and Tikkanen are also reviewing the music she learned while apprenticing under the late fiddle master Ed Lauluma. Tikkanen and Lauluma had played together on a regular basis for two decades.

Oren Tikkanen and his apprentice Kelly Suvanto on mandolin join kantele players Matt Durocher, third from left, and Dave Bezotte in playing a Finnish tune during Finlandia University's Finnish Independence Day Celebration on Dec. 6, 2007. (Video © 2007 Keweenaw Now)

When asked how he feels about being honored with the Hankooki Heikki award, Tikkanen replied with his typical creative improvisation:

On Heikinpäivä

Take the best of Christmas Day,
Fourth of July and the First of May,
Mix with snowflakes falling down
On a pretty UP hillside town.

Music, dancing, old-world food,
Arts and crafts, and a cheerful mood,
Ice-hole divers, lots of smiles,
Parading Finns and Finn-o-philes.

But my mouth goes dry, and my knees grow shaky
When I am named as Hankook Heikki.
Great the honor--yes, by golly!
(And I hope I don't meet Hankook Lalli...)

Tikkanen’s name will be added to the Hankooki plaque, which lists each Hankooki Heikki since the award’s inception in 1998. The plaque is displayed year-round at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock.

For more information about Hankooki Heikki, or any aspect of Heikinpäivä, call (906) 482-0248 or visit

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Updated: Heikinpäivä 2008 offers family fun Jan. 17-21

A toddler enjoys the thrill of the Finnish vipukelkka (whipsled) during Heikinpäivä 2007. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

HANCOCK -- Heikinpäivä 2008, Hancock's Mid-Winter Festival, will offer Finnish cultural activities for the whole family this week from Thursday through Monday, Jan. 17-21. The Finnish Theme Committee has again planned music, art and cooking events, the traditional parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19 -- followed by the whipsled, boot-throwing and wife-carrying events on the Hancock Middle School lawn -- dances, cross-country ski races, the Polar Bear dive and more.

A contestant in the Heikinpäivä 2007 wife-carrying contest, a Finnish tradition, negotiates some obstacles during the competition. (File photo © 2007 Keweenaw Now)

Finnish dance lessons, begun last week, will be offered again from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, in the Community Arts Center, Hancock. To register, call (906) 487-7505 or e-mail

On Friday, Jan. 18, the dancing begins at 6 p.m. with Tango lessons by Ralph Tuttila at the South Range Community Center. Cost is $15 per couple, $8 for singles (partner not necessary). Class size is limited only by available space. To register, call (906) 487-7505 or e-mail Karhun Tanssi (The Bear Dance), featuring Finn Hall, will follow, from 7:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Kivajat Dancers will perform at the beginning of the dance. The cost is $8 at the door.

The Kivajat Dancers, under the direction of Kay Seppala, right, perform Finnish folk dances at the Finnish American Heritage Center during Heikinpäivä 2007. (File photo © 2007 Keweenaw Now)

The Calumet Theatre's Club Finndigo promises again a full evening of Finnish food and film on Friday, Jan. 18. A Finnish buffet, yooper style as created by the chefs at Toni's restaurant, Laurium -- famous for their Finnish foods, and especially their Finnish pasties -- will take place at 6 p.m. in the ballroom, followed at 7:15 p.m. by a multi-internationally awarded 2003 movie, Elina. Set in the northern part of Sweden near the Finnish border, it reveals the story of a lonely 12-year-old Finnish girl, her Swedish teacher and a serious crisis that brings everyone -- teacher, Elina and the rest of her family and friends -- together. The buffet and movie for this special event cost $13; the movie alone, $5. Since the film is a winner for children, they will be permitted admission to both buffet and film at half price. Assurance for seating at the buffet requires a reservation made in advance by calling the theatre at 337-2610.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, the Tori Market will be held in the Finnish American Heritage Center and in the First United Methodist Church hall. It features ethnic crafts, foods and Finnish items. For more information contact Debbie at (906)-482-0248 or

Mary (Biekkola) Wright, community artist and creator of the mitten and door art projects in Hancock, was chosen as "Hankooki Heikki" for Heikinpäivä 2007 along with Rick Kauppila, who crafted the stands for each mitten. Here Wright presides over the festivities in the Tori (market), which was held in the Finnish American Heritage Center and also in the First United Methodist Church hall. (File photo © 2007 Keweenaw Now)

A new event this year will be the Lumijuoksu (Snow Run) at 11 a.m. Saturday on Quincy St. in Hancock. Hosted by the Michigan Tech University women’s track team, this 5K road race will serve as a fundraiser for the program. To register, call (906) 487-3143 or e-mail Young people will have a chance to try a different sort of race as well. The Finnish Theme Committee has purchased three youth-sized kicksleds, and committee members are planning a race course for the traditional Finnish recreational vehicles.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 19-20, the Maasto Hiihto trail system will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for leisure classic skiing. At 1 p.m. Saturday on the Michigan Tech Trails the TalviTohinat (Winter scramble) Cross-country ski races will begin with a 2.5 k youth race. This will be followed by a 10 k freestyle race at 1:30 p.m. and a 5 k freestyle race at 1:35 p.m. At 2:30 p.m. a 6.2 k skijor race will be held for individual skiers with 1-2 dogs. Registration begins on-site at 12:00 p.m. on race day. For information, call (906) 482-0820. Visit the Keweenaw Land Trust Web site for details, a schedule and maps. *

For the very hardy (foolhardy?) athletes, the traditional Polar Bear Dive will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hancock waterfront, near the Ramada Inn.

Polar Bear divers brave the icy Portage during Heikinpäivä 2007. (Photo © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Saturday night, Jan. 19
, offers two musical events. At 7:30 p.m. the Keweenaw Youth Symphony will offer a concert at the Rosza Center on the MTU campus in Houghton for free admission. The Copper Country Suzuki Association (CCSA) Preparatory String Orchestra and the CCSA "Classics" (the Adult Orchestra) will also perform.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, following the Seisovapöytä (Finnish buffet), the Tanssit (Dance) featuring Wilho Kilpelä and Friends, begins in Finlandia Hall on the Finlandia University campus. Dance-only tickets are $5.

Finland-born Anneli Lähteinen Johnson, now of Garfield, Massachusetts, will offer a variety of courses and presentations during Heikinpäivä. An award-winning homemaker and nutritionist formerly with the University of Massachusetts Extension and the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture, Johnson has taught numerous courses in Scandinavian cuisine and coordinated international cooking demonstrations in and around her home area.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, Johnson will offer a Finnish coffee table demonstration and cooking class at 2 p.m. and a nisu-making demonstration at 5 p.m. at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Hancock St., Hancock. On Monday, Jan. 21, she will teach Finnish baking for commercial kitchens at 1:30 p.m. at Little Brothers. Johnson will also offer a Finnish Coffee Table - demonstration/cooking class at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, at Zion Lutheran Church. The classes are $10 per person per class. To sign up for any of these sessions, call (906) 487-7505.

Visit the Heikinpäivä Web site for the complete schedule of events and more details about the festival.

*Editor's Note: Please note the changes on times and events for these ski races. We regret the incorrect information posted earlier.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dems offer voters advice for Jan. 15 Primary

HOUGHTON -- Houghton County Democrats have provided this information for supporters of Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Barack Obama -- who are not listed on the Michigan Primary Ballot for the primary election Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Voters for any of the above candidates are encouraged to vote “uncommitted” so that their vote will count to send to the Democratic National Convention delegates who are not committed or pledged to any candidate. These delegates can then vote for any candidate they choose at the Convention. A "write-in" vote for any of the above candidates, however, will not be counted under state law.

The Democratic ballot will have the names of the following candidates only: Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich. There is also an option for "Uncommitted" or "Write-in."

In order to vote at a polling place, voters must show a photo ID or sign a statement that they do not have a photo ID with them. Absentee voters do not have to produce a photo ID.

Visit the Michigan Democratic Party Web site for more details. See also the Voter Guide.