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Heikinpaiva worth braving the cold, snow

While on the surface, Hancock’s Heikinpaiva appears to be a cheap excuse to eat pie and have a parade in the middle of winter, it is actually a lot more than that.

Heikinpaiva is a three-week celebration of Finnish heritage, something that is prevalent throughout the Copper Country, giving that about 40% of the population can trace Finnish ancestry.

Named for St. Henrik’s Day, the celebration features a little bit of everything. This year’s events included a showing of “Sirkka: Past and Present” as part of the Nordic Film Series on Thursday, Jan. 9, to kick things off. From there, a class on building hobbyhorses, live music, folk dancing, birch bark ring-making, and a parade were all small parts of the grander celebration.

This past Saturday was the busiest day of the celebration, with a parade through downtown Hancock. The Michigan Tech Pep Band and the Finlandia Lions baseball team both had large presences in the parade itself.

Members of the trumpet section of the band had fire breathing from their instruments while they played. They also played some of their favorite pieces, much to the delight of children who attended the parade.

The Lions carried banners including one about “Big Louie” while a group of dancers marched in front of them bringing the fable of the big fish to life.

Area residents were swept up in a dance in front of the old Hancock High School after the parade ended. Some of the residents were in costume, including David Archambeau as Santa Claus and David Flashpohler as a swan, making the dance feel magical.

After the dance, the wife-carrying competition proved to provide a tremendous amount of entertainment despite being short. The opening competitors were impressive as the husband carried not only his wife in one arm, but their young daughter in his other arm. A pair of Lions’ players, Nathan Johnson and Sawyer Murrell were among the funniest competitors as Johnson carried Murrell over his shoulder and they crashed to the ground almost immediately in a fall that looked more like a tackle in football. The duo finished strong, however, making up for their misstep.

A pair of Lions softball players did their best to keep up with the boys. They were quite good despite the fact that the “husband,” Emily Nguyen, was visibly tired by the home stretch.

After the wife-carrying, local kids were invited to participate in kicksled races.

While all this was going on, there was a traditional Tori Market going on. After the races, author Mark Munger gave a book talk at North Wind Books. Sunday, there was a Finnish Hymn Sing and Concert at Zion Lutheran Church.

The organizers of Heikinpaiva like to claim there something for everyone over the course of the celebration, and we at the Daily Mining Gazette are happy to say that they did a great job of including as many people as they could with the events they held throughout.

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