Friday, January 24, 2014

Heikinpäivä, Hancock's mid-winter festival, to be Jan. 25; videos, photos from Heikinpäivä 2013

By Michele Bourdieu

The giant kicksled, reportedly the largest in the world, makes its way down Quincy Street in Hancock during the 2013 Heikinpäivä parade. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

[Editor's Note: This article has been updated with information on the music events. Please see below.]

HANCOCK -- This Saturday, Jan. 25, will offer a full day of activities for Heikinpäivä -- Hancock's annual mid-winter festival celebrating Finnish-American culture and heritage.

Dan Maki, retired longtime Finlandia professor, as Hankooki Heikki for 2013, waves from a parade wagon and presides over the festivities. This year the honor of Hankooki Heikki -- awarded for contributions to the preservation and enhancement of Finnish-American cultural life in Michigan’s Copper Country -- goes to David Maki, staff member of the Finnish American Reporter and Finnish American Heritage Center. David was also a member of the FinnFest USA 2013 board of directors and has been a longtime member of the Finnish Theme Committee.

The Tori (Market) will be open all day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in both the Finnish American Heritage Center and the First United Methodist Church. Don't miss the chance to shop for handmade items and Finnish specialties (including snacks, coffee and baked goods) and to enjoy a variety of musical entertainment.

Anna Leppanen, right, and Meghan Pachmayer offer Finnish items for sale in the 2013 Tori at the First United Methodist Church.

At 11 a.m. the Heikinpäivä Parade will head down Quincy Street toward the Finnish American Heritage Center. Here are some videos from last year's parade, held on Jan. 26, 2013:

Michigan Tech's Pep Band adds a lively tune to the 2013 Heikinpäivä Parade in Hancock. Following them is a group of nordic walkers announcing the 2013 FinnFest U.S.A. that was celebrated in Hancock and Houghton last June. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

During the 2013 Heikinpäivä parade, some participants impersonate characters from the Kalevala, the Finnish epic poem.

Following the Parade, this year the kicksled races will again be held on the Quincy Green (next to the Finnish American Heritage Center) along with the vipukelkka (whipsled) and the Eukonkanto (Wife-Carrying Contest).

Younger children love riding on the vipukelkka (whipsled).

Kids line up for the kicksled races, which made their debut at Heikinpäivä last year and will be held again this Saturday, Jan. 25, after the Parade.

Here are some videos of the 2013 kicksled races and the Wife-Carrying Contest:

Kids compete in the final round of the children's kicksled races during the 2013 Heikinpäivä mid-winter festival.

Despite a few unexpected obstacles, this couple apparently came in second in the Wife-Carrying Contest -- a Finnish tradition -- during the 2013 Heikinpäivä mid-winter festival.

While shopping at the Tori markets take a break to listen to some live music played by a variety of groups throughout the day.

Copper Country Suzuki musicians perform at Heikinpäivä 2013 in the Finlandia Gallery at the Finnish American Heritage Center. At left is their director, Libby Meyer. They will be playing from 11:30 to noon tomorrow, Jan. 25, 2014, in the Finnish American Heritage Center.

This is the music schedule for the Tori markets tomorrow, Jan. 25:

Finnish American Heritage Center:

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. -- Finn Aire (Roger Hewlett)
(11 a.m. -- Parade)
11:30 a.m. - noon -- Libby Meyer and Keweenaw Youth Orchestra (Copper Country Suzuki).
noon - 1 p.m. -- Eleanor Taylor
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. -- Tanja Stanaway
2 p.m. - 3 p.m. -- Finn Aire

First United Methodist Church:

11:30 a.m. - noon -- Courtney Clisch
noon - 12:30 p.m. -- Kivajat Dancers
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. -- Pasi Cats
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. -- Christine Nakkula

Here are some samples of Finnish music performed last year in the basement of the First United Methodist Church:

Trio Tumpelot -- Ana Gawboy on concertina, Pasi Lautala on accordion and Meghan Pachmayer on bass (while holding Olavi, new addition to the Lautala family) -- play a lively schottische during the 2013 Heikinpäivä celebration.

The Kivajat Dancers perform a Finnish folk dance during last year's Heikinpäivä. At far left is their director, Kay Seppälä. They will perform tomorrow, Jan. 25, from noon to 12:30 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church

Polar Bear Dive back by popular demand

One of Heikinpäivä’s most popular events each year is the Polar Bear Dive, when hundreds of hearty souls take the plunge into the icy waters of the Portage Canal. Although the Polar Bear Dive was not held last year, it is scheduled to return this year to challenge the fearless. Along with participants proving their mettle, there’s an opportunity for three entries to win cash prizes for their creativity.

The Polar Bear Dive will return this year and will take place along the Hancock waterfront between the Ramada Inn and the Copper Island Beach Club. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

The Michigan Tech Aquanauts manage the site and provide a safe environment for the participants and spectators alike. Local radio personalities provide an entertaining play-by-play.

Due to the popularity of this event and limited parking near the dive site, car-pooling is strongly encouraged.

Registration for this year's dive begins at 2 p.m., and the Dive is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. along the Hancock waterfront between the Ramada Inn and the Copper Island Beach Club.

Those who just want to dive for fun must pay $1; anyone who'd like to compete for cash prizes must pay $5. Divers who are competing for prizes will dive first. Prizes will be awarded by three judges, who will choose the winners based on costume, presentation, and execution of the dive.

Footwear is strongly encouraged. Be sure to bring a towel! No children participating this year, please. Be sure to bring a bathing suit!

Banquet and Dance Saturday night, Jan. 25

Saturday night, at 6 p.m. the Seisovapöytä (Finnish buffet) will be held at Zion Lutheran Church, Hancock. Tickets are $18. A silent auction will be held during the banquet.

UPDATED: Finally, at 8 p.m., bring your dancing shoes to the Finnish American Heritage Center and dance to great Finnish tunes on the new wooden dance floor! The Pasi Cats will provide great dance music!

"PasiCats will climb on stage for Heikinpäivä Dance at Finnish-American Heritage Center, starting 8 p.m. and playing until people drop, or maintenance kicks us out," says Pasi Lautala. "We'll make sure that there's plenty of speed on the dance floor and calm people down with tangos."

For more details on Heikinpäivä visit

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