By Michele Bourdieu
HANCOCK -- Heikinpäivä 2010 attracted good crowds and what appeared to be a record number of Polar Bear divers. No less than 128 of them leaped into the icy water of the Portage Canal near Hancock's Ramada Inn.
This year's Heikinpäivä Polar Bear Dive attracted 128 intrepid divers and a crowd of spectators. (Video clips by Keweenaw Now)
The air temperature rose a few degrees into the double digits (maybe 13 degrees F) so Parade watchers didn't freeze quite so fast as in previous years.
Presiding over the Parade and other Heikinpäivä festivities was this year's Hankooki Heikki award winner, Melvin Kangas, a Suomi College graduate and a faculty member at the school for more than four decades.
Presiding over the 2010 Heikinpäivä festival, Melvin Kangas as Hankooki Heikki, dressed in his royal garb, rides in the reindeer sleigh during the parade.
After attending Suomi, Kangas received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan in music composition and won a Finlandia Foundation scholarship to attend Sibelius Academy in Finland, where he studied under Ulla Katajavuori, Finland’s foremost kantele player.
After many years as music director at Suomi College/ Finlandia University, Kangas now serves as adjunct associate professor of music, providing instruction on the kantele, the Finnish national instrument. Dozens of students through the years have benefited from his tutelage, not only in music but also in drama. Kangas has directed the Finlandia University fall play for many years, and several times he has opted for Finnish plays or productions (including some performed in the Finnish language) with distinct Finnish or Finnish-American themes.
In the Heikinpäivä Parade, Finnish Theme Committee representatives Debbie Kurtti, left, wearing a Finnish national costume and holding banner, and Glenn Tapio, far right, are followed by Barkell Elementary School second graders with their teacher Maija Stadius, behind banner.
Heikinpäivä is a Finnish-American festival created by the City of Hancock's Finnish Theme Committee, a group of community leaders charged with preserving Finnish heritage and utilizing Finnish themes for community development.
Hancock City Council members John Slivon, left, and Richard Freeman, second from left, and City Manager Glenn Anderson, second from right, participate in the Heikinpäivä Parade on Jan. 30, 2010.
State Rep. Mike Lahti (D-Hancock) was on hand for the parade and other festivities, accompanied by his granddaughter Ava Lahti, who was celebrating her fifth birthday. Mike joined other parade participants in tossing candy to children in the audience.
State Rep. Mike Lahti and his granddaughter Ava Lahti celebrate Ava's fifth birthday at the Heikinpäivä 2010 festival.
"This was an exceptional Heikinpäivä Parade," Lahti said. "I noticed the crowds are consistently larger. I almost ran out of candy!"
Following the parade, another favorite event, the Wife-carrying competition, provided entertainment for the crowd and challenges for the participants, who had to perform a series of traditional Finnish "skills" on the way to the "Finnish" line.
The Wife-carrying contestants first had to shake a typical Finnish rug to show their housekeeping skills. For some reason, only the "wives" chose to (?) perform this task.
Contestants Diane Miller of Houghton and Mark Janeczko of Harrison, Mich., fulfill the second Finnish "skill" in the Wife-carrying competition -- the sauna. Miller and Janeczko ended up winning the competition with a time of 33 seconds. At right, a young visitor enjoys a ride on a Finnish kicksled.
Contestants Christine Randell, left, wearing a Karelian folk costume, and her husband, Kent Randell (Finnish American Heritage Center archivist), wearing a Saami gakti, join "Champion Wife-Carrier" Glen Johnson and Kris Kyro Johnson, far right, for the third Finnish custom, a stop for coffee and gossip. Glen and Kris were the judges for the wife-carrying event.
No lingering at the café! Couldn't tell what the "wife" was yelling here, for lack of translation, but she managed to stay on hubby's back through the "Finnish" line.
While adults enjoyed outdoor competitions, kids had fun on the whipsled (Vipukelkka). In the background, parents and kids learn about the visiting reindeer.
The Tori, or market, has grown over the years and now has two locations -- the Finnish American Heritage Center and Hancock's First United Methodist Church. Community members sell and demonstrate handicrafts and sell food items while local musicians entertain.
Phyllis Fredendall, fiber artist and associate professor at Finlandia's International School of Art and Design, demonstrates weaving techniques at the Tori (market) in the First United Methodist Church.
Sandy Soring chats with a customer about her baskets during the Tori (market) in the Finnish American Heritage Center.
Jim Kurtti, Finnish American Heritage Center director, said visitors have a strong preference for Finnish items such as mojakka (stew) and karjalan piirakka (a Karelian "pasty," a rye crust with a rice porridge filling, topped with egg butter).
"At the Finnish Theme Committee's booth, the mojakka was sold out before 1 p.m.," Kurtti noted.
Meghan Pachmayer, left, and Anna Leppanen sell Finnish pastries at the Tori in the First United Methodist Church.
Items from Finland are also popular, Kurtti added. Finnish singer Tanja Stanaway successfully sold Finnish chocolate, coffee, licorice and pearl sugar.
At both Tori locations musicians, singers and dancers entertained most of the day.
The Finn Woods Ramblers play a popular schottische, "Osa Poika, Onni Poika" (The Lucky Boy), sung by Oren Tikkanen, left. Musicians also include, from left, Eleanor Taylor on accordion, Matt Durocher (behind Eleanor) on fretless bass guitar, Randy Seppala and Gail Braden on bones. Braden, who learned to play bones from the late Johnnie Perona and from Seppala, won the World Bones Championship in Ireland a few years ago.
Under the direction of Kay Seppala, the Kivajat dancers perform a Finnish folk dance. Kivajat traveled to Finland last summer to perform.