A week ago the kids and I returned from Finnfest 2013, held this year in Houghton, Michigan on the Keewanau peninsula of the Upper Peninsula. Finnfest is an annual gathering of Finnish nationals, expats, immigrants and those with Finnish interests. It takes place in a different place every year and has been ongoing for 30 years. This is the first year Houghton hosted, although it has met at Hancock just across the river years ago. That very northwest corner of Michigan has one of the highest concentrations of Finns outside of the Nordic lands. Many came to the States just after 1900 with the copper mining boom.
We drove the whole way, up through Chicago and Wisconsin, entering this beautiful area of Northern Michigan right around dinner time on the 19th of June. On the way up we passed over a country road named, "Rosencranz."
Sure, enough, the next town was Denmark. Seemed like a perfect place to pull over. The woman who helped us in the tourist shop did not know that Hamlet took place in Denmark. Hmmm... Something is rotten about that!
Houghton, Michigan is home to Michigan Tech University. In fact, that is where the majority of classes, talks, and concerts were held. We pulled in and made ourselves at home in two dorm rooms. The eldest was tuckered out and went to bed, while we three lively ones went to the opening ceremonies in the main auditorium. The Secretary of State of Denmark was one of the principal speakers, as well as scores of musical groups, dancers and singers.
All week, we enjoyed Finnish classes, lectures on Finland, The Sámi, Laestidus and Finnish Lutheranism. We even did fun things like hanging out with the Moomins! These puffy, white hippopotamus-looking things reminded me of Lil' Abners Shmoos.
All this time, I also did demonstrations with a group of crafters in a side gym. There were Finnish rag rug makers, spinners, wood carvers, and woolen quilts. Quite fun! I set up a couple tables with knitted examples, books, and pictures, then proceeded to spindle and knit, talking to the people who passed by. My uncle Charlie was persuaded to pull out his birch bark and weave some baskets, rings, and knife holsters as well.
One of the highlights of the time was being able to hear the Sápmi choir of Sámi singers from all across the Sámi homeland: the Northern parts of Norway, Finland and Sweden. I was able to meet some of the singers and the people associated with them.
All these connections are helpful, as I am planning a trip to Sápmi this September.
On other, non-knitting related topics, the four of us also competed in a Guiness Book of World Records' attempt at the most people completing a (3km) Nordic Walk. I don't believe the numbers that turned out will beat the existing record held by the Swedes, however. Earlier, we also stopped and paid tribute to George Gipp. He is best known as Notre Dame's star football player and first All-american. He played for coach Knute Rockne, and was made famous by the phrase, "Win one for the Gipper!"
All in all, it was a wonderful time -- very busy, and a tiring drive -- but worth it to see and celebrate the wonderful Finnish culture.