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Un-Suomi-like weather won’t hinder Heikinpaiva festivities

HANCOCK – Despite the mild winter weather so far, organizers of Heikinpaiva are forging ahead with plans for the mid-winter festival, which will be held for the 17th year.

Jim Kurtti, chairman of the Hancock Finnish Theme Committee, which creates and organizes Heikinpaiva, said as usual, several classes are taking place during the month, including wooden bird carving, knitting, playing of the traditional stringed instrument (the kantele) and baking.

There are films being shown at the Finnish American Heritage Center (FAHC) on Quincy Street in Hancock and at the Calumet Theatre. A full list of events can be found at the Finnish Theme Committee website at finnishamericanreporter.com/heikin_page/schedule.

The big day for the festival will be Jan. 30. A parade takes place at 11 a.m. It starts at the Scott Building on Quincy Street and finishes on Quincy Green between the FAHC and the First United Methodist Church. Many events will take place on Quincy Green, including children’s games and the wife carry.

Kurtti said a Finnish government official will attend the festival.

“On the 30th, the counsel general of Finland (Jukka Pietikainen) will bestow an award,” he said.

Pietikainen will give the Order of the Lion to John Kiltinen and the Order of the Rose to Paula Kiltinen. The Kiltinens, who are from Marquette, have been active supporters of the FAHC and supporters of Finnish culture in the area.

“They were instrumental in getting the hall (at the FAHC) done before FinnFest,” he said.

FinnFest USA is a celebration of Finnish culture, which takes place in different cities around the country. In 2013, it was based in Hancock.

One of the more popular events of Heikinpaiva is the Polar Bear Dive, during which participants jump into Portage Lake through a hole cut in the ice. Kurtti said this year the dive takes place at the Copper Island Beach Club. There is a $5 fee for participants in the competitive part of the event, and a $1 fee for all others.

Kurtti said the events will take place Jan. 30 no matter what the weather is doing. Parking is available on the streets and in Hancock city parking lots, but the weather might affect that.

“If there’s a lot of snow, there’s (fewer) spots,” he said.