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Heikinpaiva 2020 launches with film on Finnish activist

HANCOCK — Heikinpaiva is Hancock’s Finnish heritage midwinter celebration. The event began in Hancock in 1999 and has changed and grown considerably since then. The event culminates with a parade, outdoor events, and an all-day craft market on Jan 25. However, smaller events and workshops take place throughout the month.

Arguably, the first event has already taken place with the naming of this year’s “Heiki of Hancock” at December’s Finnish Independence Day celebration. The title is given annually to someone who has contributed to the preservation and promotion of Finnish tradition and culture. In addition to being recognized at the event, the Heiki of Hancock traditionally participates in the Heikinpaiva parade. This year’s recipient is Mary Pekkela.

“Every year, we honor someone who has made a significant contribution to Finnish Heritage … This year’s choice is long overdue,” said Finnish American Heritage Center Director Jim Kurrti during the event. “If I was to tell you everything this person does to promote Finnish culture here in Hancock, we’d be here for another hour.”

Also associated with the festival is a presentation of the film “Sirkka: Past and Present” as part of the Nordic Film Series. The documentary film follows the life of Sirkka Tuomi Holm, a prominent activist and writer. The film will be shown at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m, Jan. 9, at the FAHC.

Jan. 13 and 15 are workshops for traditional Finnish instruments the Jouhikko and the Kantele – stringed instruments related to the lyre — respectively. Jan. 20 will also see a workshop for making a Laveri, a reed instrument from Karelia — a cultural region including parts of Eastern Finland and Western Russia. All three workshops begin at 6 p.m. at the FAHC.

Another multi-national cultural group, the Saami, will be celebrated with an exhibit at the FAHC. While the exhibit will be open throughout Heikinpaiva, the reception at 6 p.m. on Jan. 16 will feature remarks by exhibit curator Marlene Wisuri. The Saami are a cultural group living in parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. The exhibit discusses a group of Saami descendants living in Alaska.

If the Jouhikko and the Kantele are too exotic for you, you can also attend workshops to learn Finnish-style fiddle playing, called Pelimannit. Workshops start Jan. 6 with Carrie Lutkowski of local folk band Whitewater. Participants will even have the option of showing off their skills in a rehearsal later on. For more information, visit Finlandia.edu/fiddle.

“There are many popular fiddlers, bands, and folk music festivals in Finland,” said Lutkowski. “I realize how fortunate we are here in the U.P. to have our own vibrant musical traditions.”

There will also be opportunities to learn about Finnish folk dancing. A workshop for children will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 20 and a workshop for adults will be held at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 21. Community dances will also be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 and at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 28, all at the FAHC. There will also be an opportunity to work on Finnish singing at the FAHC at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 and to sing Finnish hymns at 2 p.m. at the Zion Lutheran Church in Hancock.

Children who aren’t interested in dancing can still get in on the fun at the Hobbyhorse Hoedown from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the FAHC. The event will be comprised of children’s games adapted to be played on hobbyhorses — popular toys in Finland. Don’t have a hobbyhorse? Borrow one at the event, make one at home, or attend a workshop to learn how to make one at Sew Cranky Jan. 11 from noon to 5 p.m. or Jan. 8 and 15 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can even ride hobbyhorses in the Heikinpaiva parade.

“(Finns) have turned (hobbyhorses) into an athletic competition … we aren’t that elaborate here,” said Ginger Alberti of Sew Cranky, a Hancock shop that repairs, sells, and instructs users on vintage sewing machines. “Last year, we had families with three-year-olds and we had 80-year-olds all enjoying the games.

Jan. 25 is the main day of festivities. A craft market will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church with outdoor games and activities on Quincy Green next door from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The parade will take place on Quincy Street beginning at 11 a.m.

Author Mark Munger will be talking about his book “Kotimaa” at North Wind Books at 1 p.m. A polar bear dive will take place at the Hancock waterfront at 3 p.m. and an art reception for “Animal Life: Art from the Kalevala” will take place at the FAHC, also at 3 p.m.

The Finnish American Heritage Center, the First United Methodist Church, Quincy Green, and Northwind Books are all located on the 400 block of Quincy Street in Hancock. Sew Cranky is located at 322 Quincy St. and the Zion Lutheran Church is located at 400 Ingot St.

For more information, visit finlandia.edu/heikinpaiva.

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