Polka tribute to host of ‘Finland Calling’

Photo provided by Kim Parker Sunday is the day for “Covington Calling,” a dance in honor of “Finland Calling” host Carl Pellonpaa, pictured in this TV6 file photo.

COVINGTON — The show must go on. That’s the message of a last polka party honoring longtime “Finland Calling” host Carl Pellonpaa.

“Gee whiz,” Pellonpaa said Friday. “All these people are going to be there. I hope they have a good time.”

To be held in honor of the ailing Upper Peninsula icon and his wife of 63 years, “Covington Calling” will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday in Covington.

Pellonpaa was the creator and sole host of TV6’s “Finland Calling,” the longest running show in broadcasting history, according to the station’s Kim Parker. The program ran on TV6 for 53 years, from 1962 to 2015.

Unfortunately, Pellonpaa — a lifelong Ishpeming resident — said he will not be able to attend this music fest.

“I’m 86 years old,” Pellonpaa said. “Doris is 86 years old. I have a cancer that’s causing all kinds of problems.”

Covington Township Supervisor Lowella Eskel will miss Pellonpaa this year, having made friends at past polkas in town.

“This one is the last one, and it’s all due to him,” Eskel said.

She said Sunday’s event will go on, having already been rescheduled due to Pellonpaa’s failing health.

“It’s an opportunity to honor Carl,” Parker explained. He said TV6 did a couple shows about the Upper Peninsula icon, including “The Life and Times of Carl Pellonpaa,” a half-hour show accessible on the station’s website.

Carl Pellonpaa said he’s sure the talented musicians he’s worked with before will do a great job entertaining people in his absence.

“I know how much this group of Yoopers loves to dance,” Pellonpaa said, mentioning Richie Yurkovich and Polkarioty, who will provide the music at Sunday’s dance. He added Scott Koehn will play a song in honor of Finland’s 100th anniversary.

In addition to taking 34 trips with tours to Finland, Pellonpaa held hundreds, if not more than a thousand, dances – some to sell-out crowds. He said started organizing the dances in the summer of 1964, as a way to connect with his many viewers.

“Remember, it takes two to tango,” he said, speaking of his long marriage with Doris, but a fitting remark from someone who connected so many to Finnish culture and music for more than a half century.

Sunday’s dance will be at the Covington Multi-Purpose Building, located at 12898 State Highway M28 in Covington.

In addition, Pellonpaa’s book, “Suomi Kutsuu a.k.a. ‘Finland Calling,'” will be available for purchase at the Covington Museum during the event.