HOUGHTON - Perhaps it's fitting the Portage Lake Lift Bridge is painted blue and white, because FinnFest USA 2013 and Bridgefest 2013 will collide this weekend to create a festive atmosphere of impressive proportions throughout the Copper Country.
The 27th annual Bridgefest celebration will take place today through Sunday, featuring the traditions that local residents have come to love, mixed with a little Finnish flair.
"There's confusion of course, but we've had a great relationship with the FinnFest coordinators in integrating our events together and promoting one another," said Amy Juntunen, Bridgefest chair. "We're looking forward to a big turnout."
Bridgefest vendor booths will open at 3 p.m. today to kick off the three-day event, and the annual parade begins at 7 p.m. It will travel from Houghton's downtown Citgo station to Hancock's Citgo station. The theme is "Bridging the gap between Finland and the Copper Country."
The band Recess Bullies will play from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park in Houghton and local chainsaw carving artist Rich Pethtel will be on hand as well.
The Longest Day Music Jam will continue Saturday from noon to midnight, with 97.7 The Wolf radio station coordinating music. Four Finnish bands will play from noon to 3:30 p.m: Mika Pennanen (noon-12:30), PasiCats (12:45-1:30); Tuhrulan Isanta (1:45-2) and Conga Se Menne (2:45-3:30). That will be followed by Peer Pressure (4-4:45), 3 Left Standing (5-6:30), John Bowen (6:45-8), Yard Sale (8:30-9:30) and Peter Lorre (10-midnight).
Beach volleyball will take place at 10 a.m. at the Copper Island Beach Club. An antique car show will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Aspirus Keweenaw Medical Arts building parking lot on the waterfront. The Ski-ters will once again host their water ski show on the Portage Waterway, with separate shows at 2 and 4 p.m. The day will conclude with the Jon Davis Memorial Fireworks at dusk, around 10:30 p.m.
Sunday will include vendor and exhibit booths from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with beach volleyball co-ed fours at 10 a.m. and a ping pong tournament at noon, both at the Copper Island Beach Club. A closing ceremony will take place at noon at the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park in which attendees will literally get to "beat the stuffing out of Heikki Lunta," according to Juntunen.
The seven-member committee has been hard at work to coordinate Bridgefest once again, with a wealth of help from local sponsors, but volunteers are still welcome. Anyone interested may call the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce at 482-5240.
"Basically what we're doing is we're providing our same local venue on a bigger scale and trying to keep our old favorites for locals and showing people out of town what we do each year," Juntunen said.
For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit bridgefestfun.com.