Thursday, January 29, 2015

Celebrate Mid-Winter at Heikinpäivä 2015 in Hancock

A highlight of the Heikinpäivä Mid-Winter Festival is the parade on Quincy Street in Hancock. This year's parade will begin at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Jan. 31. (Keweenaw Now file photos)

HANCOCK -- Heikinpäivä celebrates the midpoint of winter, when the hibernating bear rolls over; but he’s not the only creature revolving on that particular day. Finlandia University’s Quincy Green will be filled with folks who will have plenty of opportunity to take a "spin" through some Finnish-American fun.

Immediately following the parade, which gets under way at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Jan. 31, Quincy Green will be the site of some longtime festival favorites, as well as some new attractions.

Kids enjoy a ride on the vipukelkka (whipsled) during Heikinpäivä in Hancock.

In one part of the Green, a group of intrepid volunteers led by Hancock High School teacher Steve Aho will be manning the vipukelkka (whipsled), on which young people can have a human-powered ride in a sled around a snowy and icy track. With all of this circular motion, both the pushers and riders can enjoy the ride.

The first competition on the agenda is the annual wife-carrying contest, with a mid-winter spin on a longtime Finnish tradition. Couples navigate a short obstacle course, with the "husband" carrying the "wife" (participants need not be married) while completing a series of tradition-based tasks in preparation for having guests at their home. Whoever does this fastest will leave the course with some prizes in hand.

A bit of role reversal sometimes happens during the "wife" carrying contest. The "husband" seems to be enjoying the ride here.

Once the wives are all carried, the young people can spin around a race course on some youth-sized potkuri (kicksleds), with the fastest in each age bracket earning himself or herself a prize as well. Age brackets will be determined on-site dependent on number and age of participants.

Kids line up for the kicksled race on Quincy Green during Heikinpäivä games. 

Another ride option will be a sled-dog ride around the perimeter of the Green. A team from Otter River Kennels will be offering folks a sampling of what it’s like to be mushed along the trail in a true dogsled race. These rides will be starting from the area of the Green nearest the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC).

After a whirlwind day of outdoor activities, Heikinpäivä-goers should also take a spin through the tori inside the FAHC and also inside the First United Methodist Church at the other end of Quincy Green.

Meghan Pachmayer, left, and Anna Leppänen offer Finnish snacks for sale at a previous Heikinpäivä Tori in the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Visitors can enjoy food, music and gifts to warm both inside and out, before venturing back onto the Green for more Heikinpäivä fun.

Carol Williams offers her lovely handmade jewelry for sale at the Tori. 

At 3 p.m. Saturday don't miss the Polar Bear Dive, near Porvoo Park, Hancock. $5 fee for competing divers; $1 all others.

The Polar Bear Dive on the Hancock Waterfront is only for the brave or (a little) crazy!

Heikinpäivä Dances: Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30, 31

A Finnish music jam session will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday evening, Jan. 30, at the Copper Island Beach Club on the Hancock Waterfront at the foot of Tezcuco Street. Come on down and sing, play, and dance hard enough to roll the bear over onto his other side. Let's make sure that winter's back is broken.

This year, the Heikinpäivä festival will not include a buffet dinner, but you can enjoy plenty of good food at the traditional Saturday Heikinpäivä Dance, beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Finnish American Heritage Center. Festival-goers can wrap up their 2015 experience by dancing to the musical stylings of Aallotar, a duo of Finnish-American fiddler Sara Pajunen and Finnish accordionist Teija Niku, who have traveled hundreds (or in Teija's case, thousands) of miles to share their talents with us. Admission is only $10 per person. Come and join the fun!

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