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Finnish American Folk School sauna building workshop postponed

CALUMET, Mich. — The Finnish American Folk School organizers, along with their partners at the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw School District, regret to announce that the Finnish log sauna building workshop slated to begin this month will have to be postponed.

Due to prolonged delays within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding the presenters’ visa applications, the organizers determined it was no longer feasible to continue with the plan of beginning the course in September; instead, the workshop will begin in May 2020 and include three weeks of instruction.

“We waited until the last possible minute,” said Finnish American Folk School director Jim Kurtti. “But, since it’s less than one week before these men were supposed to be here, we know that even if the visa application was approved today, there’s no way these men could complete the process, book flights and arrive in time to start the class.”

Longtime Finnish sauna builders Timo Alakesti and Marko Kemppainen will instead lead the class in May, offering hands-on instruction for five hours per day to design and build one traditional log sauna, complete with wood-fired stove. While crafting the sauna, students will use some modern-day construction equipment, but will do so using the building techniques of the Finns and Finnish Americans of more than a century ago.

The class was eagerly anticipated by students both in the CLK district, as well as beyond. Folks from as far away as Ohio had registered for the class; one gentleman from that state had scheduled an extended vacation from his workplace just so he could attend.

“While we would’ve loved to have Timo and Marko share their skills now, we’re just as excited to have them come in the spring,” Kurtti said. “One bonus is that this delay gives some folks extra time to plan to take part in the class.”

For further information, or to register for the sauna workshop, call the Finnish American Heritage Center at (906) 487-7549.