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Finnish culture celebrated

December 6, 2010

HANCOCK - Music, dancing and ritual came together in Finlandia University's celebration of Finnish Independence Day in Hancock.

The event, the 93rd annual, took place in the Finnish-American Heritage Center Sunday.

"Many of our ancestors came through here, including mine," Hancock Mayor Bill Laitila said. "It's a very special event."

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
One of the Kivajat Folk Dancers performs Sunday during Finnish Independence Day celebrations in Hancock.

It might be the only celebration outside Finland to have been held every year since 1918, Finlandia President Philip Johnson said.

"It's quite a record, and I think we should take quite a bit of pride in that," he said.

The ceremony included performances by the Kivajat Folk Dancers, players from the Keweenaw Youth Symphony Orchestra, a kantele performance led by Kay Seppala and playing by Oren Tikkanen, Libby Meyer and Pasi Lautala.

The spirit of the Finnish-American community in Hancock stunned Hann Nummila, a Finnish student researcher from Michigan Technological University.

"Be proud of your roots, and be proud of who you are," she said.

Nummila and Lautala, along with Sami Vaittinen and Jukka Simila, took part in the Tiernapojat, a 15th-century folk tradition based on Christ's nativity that has been a mainstay in Finland since the 19th century.

Also at the ceremony, Esther Pekkala was named the Hankooki Heikki for the Heikinpiv parade.

Pekkala was lauded for her work behind the scenes in Finnish-American events. She is the last charter member of the Theme Committee and was also instrumental in the two Finn Fests held in Hancock.

"I feel honored and humbled and thankful to the committee," Pekkala said of the honor.

Garrett Neese can be reached at



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