HANCOCK - Ever since her class took a trip to Michigan Technological University's Rozsa Center for the Perfgorming Arts about a year ago, Ewen-Trout Creek soon-to-be fifth-grader Elise Besonen has dreamed of performing on that stage.
Later this month, she'll get to fulfill her dream - in a big way.
Besonen, 10, will be one of the musicians performing at the opening ceremony for FinnFest USA 2013 on the evening of June 19 at the Rozsa Center. Her vocal talents caught the eye - or ear? - of festival chairman Jim Kurtti when Elise performed in a children's choir at Christmas Eve mass at Sacred Heart Church in Ewen.
"When Jim (who has roots in nearby Bruce Crossing) gave us a call and asked, we were excited," said Brad Besonen, Elise's father. "I wasn't really familiar with how big an event it is, but when we looked into it, we got really excited."
So is Elise. She discovered that she enjoyed the stage the first time she performed with her father, who is the music teacher for Ewen-Trout Creek schools.
"I was like 3 or 4," Elise said. "It's just fun singing on stage. I am really happy and excited."
"Actually, when she was 2 she was on stage with me at a talent show," Brad said. "And every year since she's been part of our local talent shows."
At the FinnFest opening ceremony, Elise will be singing a solo of "Sunnuntaiaamuna" ("On Sunday Morning") with one verse in English, and one in Finnish.
It'll be her first time singing in any language other than her native tongue, but she says she enjoys the challenge.
"It's different," she explained, "because I have to learn a lot of new words, but it's really exciting and is a big opportunity."
And, it will be a wonderful opportunity for Elise, her three siblings and her parents to explore their predominant ancestry.
"For our families, being part of FinnFest is a big deal," Brad said. "My mother-in-law was a Linna, and in my family there are Besonens and Puumalas. We're definitely a Finnish-American family."
The Besonens will be joining hundreds of Finnish-Americans and Finnish nationals at the FinnFest USA 2013 opening ceremony at 7 p.m. June 19 at the Rozsa Center.
Seating is limited to registered FinnFest guests, so to ensure the opportunity to see the kickoff to this five-day international festival, register at www.finnfestusa2013.org, or call 487-7560 as soon as possible.