By STEPHEN ANDERSON
HOUGHTON - The overall impact of FinnFest USA 2013 on the Copper Country may take months to determine, but according to initial feedback from organizers, the cultural celebration was a success.
Meagan Stilp/Daily Mining Gazette
Buttons proclaiming Finnish pride were for sale at the Tori market during FinnFest USA 2013. Vendors sold authentic Finnish products as well as souvenirs and T-shirts during the festival.
"It's remarkable," said Glenn Anderson, Hancock city manager, after he participated in Saturday's Nordic walking world-record attempt (see related article). "You always worry about attendance for both the budget and the people, but we met all our budget expectations last Friday (June 14), so those who registered this week, and there were hundreds of them, just exceeded it.
"It's always nice to tell people we expect 6,000-8,000 people and they actually do show."
Anderson said there were more than 3,000 registrations, with paid events at about 5,500, and the Tori market was getting about 1,500 per day from Wednesday through Sunday.
"The positive feedback we've received is amazing," said Dave Maki, FinnFest USA 2013 board member. "We've invested so much of ourselves in it, and to see the people reacting the way they are is all worth it."
Information is still being figured out in terms of economic impact on the Copper Country, but anecdotal evidence suggests local hotels, restaurants and retailers greatly benefited from the attendance.
"There's been thousands of people around, they've got to be eating, they've got to be sleeping and they're probably shopping," Maki said. "With all those faces in town, chances are the businesses have seen many of them."
While the primary festival events took place Wednesday through Saturday, the ripple effects from the event will continue spreading in the form of enhanced local collaboration, new business partnerships and enriched cultural identity.
"I would call this one of the greatest gifts this community has ever had," Hancock Mayor William Laitila said. "It's just mind-boggling the amount of organization and cooperation between all the institutions - the City of Hancock, the City of Houghton heavily involved, Michigan Tech(nological University), of course Finlandia University getting the ball rolling in the first place.
"I'm so impressed by the quality of the programming, the variety and of course the attendance. My hats go off to everyone that's been involved in making this happen."
Events happened from Copper Harbor in the north to Covington in the south, from lectures, to dances, to community-wide events to forums.
"We think a lot about the future. We have to do it in the context of the past. To have Finland here, as well as Finnish America here, it's all about blending those two," Finlandia University President Philip Johnson said. "Finlandia is about making that conversation happen.
"The education forum, the business forum, in collaboration with my good friend and colleague Tech President Glenn Mroz, this stuff can happen. I'm just real proud to be a part of this community."