The entire Upper Peninsula is known to have a strong Finnish heritage, and here in the Keweenaw that also rings true, but with the efforts of the Finnish American Heritage Center, celebrating that culture is commonplace in the community.
“We are commemorating Finland’s Independence again this year. This is the 101st year of Finland’s Independence. It’s the 100th time that we’ve celebrated it here on campus, which we’re very proud of. We welcome the public to come. It’s a nice program of music and entertainment and afterwards we always have a lovely reception. This year, that reception is hosted by the Kivijat dancers who are raising money to go to Finland,” said Finnish American Heritage Center Director Jim Kurtti.
Kurtti said, “For Finnish Americans, it’s an interesting thing because when most of our forefathers came from Finland here, Finland was still part of Russia. So they watched very intently when they realized Finland was going to be free–an independent country where their language and their culture would be brought to the highest degree rather than suppressed–so it was an important deal here in the Copper Country.”
The celebration begins at 6 pm at the Finnish American Heritage Center and will showcase the reasons for optimism regarding the future of Finnish-American activity in the Copper Country. “So there’s this strong connection and to celebrate Finland’s Independence means that we’re celebrating people everywhere to be independent,” Kurtti said.
This time of year brings many celebrations to the Finnish American Community. Kurtti says the folks at the Finnish American Heritage Center are busy making preparations for upcoming events as well. “There’s a lot of Finnish activity just around the corner. We have Heikinpäivä coming up in January and we have a large schedule again of events. A lot of traditional crafts and traditional cooking ways are going to be accentuated. There’s always something Finnish going on which is really an expression of the vitality of the Finnish community,” he said.