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'Urho-palooza' coming to Finland

Those attending the 2016 St. Urho's Day Festical in Finland enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures and a spring break them. In 2017, "Urho-palooza"will bring a musical festival atmosphere to the North Shore community. (File photo by Jamey Malcomb)

Green and purple will once again dominate the landscape in Finland as St. Urho's Day makes it's triumphant return March 17-19, with usual array of events, and this year, with a musical theme of "Urho-palooza."

The celebration is in its 42nd year and is thought to be the longest running St. Urho's Day event in Minnesota, according to organizer Honor Schauland.

St. Urho's Day celebrates a fictional saint who is said to have driven the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland (the country) and saving the grapes ancient Finnish vineyard workers depended on. The story originated in Minnesota in the 1950s but has grown to be celebrated by people of Finnish descent around North America and even in Finland. In fact, Brimson native Margaret "Fecka" Juslin Cooper, who donated the land for the Brimson fire department building, was one of the organizers of a St. Urho's Day festival in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

This year Schauland and the Friends of Finland group that organizes the event had a tough time thinking of a good theme early on. Schauland said the group normally gets together in the fall to brainstorm ideas for themes for the festival. Last year, the festival celebrated the unseasonably warm temperatures with a spring break theme and in the past organizers have had "faintly political" themes as well, according to Schauland, but after the grueling 2016 campaign and emotions still running high more than four months later, the group thought better of it.

"We discussed how everybody needs a break from that, so we needed to do something totally different than that," Schauland said. "We wanted something that would resonate with everybody and everybody likes music, we might not agree on what kind of music, but everybody likes music, so that seemed universal."

Music has always been a big part of St. Urho's Day with bands playing throughout the weekend at local bars like Our Place, the Four Seasons and West Branch as well as a traditional polka band at the Clair Nelson Center. In addition, this year during the parade many of the floats will have a band theme with some groups lip syncing to music and others actually playing from the floats.

The festivities actually started last weekend with a scavenger hunt for kids and families and will continue this weekend when the Friends of the Finland Community will host a workshop to help people construct floats and costumes for the festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday in the Clair Nelson Community Center. Even if they aren't in the parade, people can come and create fun and bizarre outfits for the celebration.

In addition, Schauland said there was a "super top secret" meeting about plans for the Ms. Helmi Talent and Beauty Contest Friday night. She was a little coy about details, but contestants, all men, in the "pageant" will don again dresses and perform at bars and restaurants around Finland and have to attempt to maintain the act throughout the evening.

The morning of March 18, the annual pancake breakfast to benefit the Finland Minnesota Historical Society will be from 8-10:30 a.m. at the Clair Nelson Center. The cost is $5 and attendees can fuel up for the parade and party that follows.

The parade starts at noon, people should really try to get there early. The Finland St. Urho's Day parade, the only one in Minnesota that shuts down a state highway, draws a huge crowd for the tiny community.

In addition, the Finland fire department will be raising money selling brats and hamburgers and William Kelley Schools students will be selling St. Urho's Day T-shirts to raise money for their After Prom party. The Friends of the Finland Community will also be raising money to help pay for the event by selling raffle tickets for $1 and St. Urho's Day buttons for $2. Raffle tickets will be drawn Sunday 4 p.m. for various door prizes and a $600 cash prize.

"It's a really fun celebration at the end of a strange winter, people can come out and see folks they haven't seen for a while and have a really good time," Schauland said. "I think it's really important for our community to spend time together and enjoy something that we all seem to have in common and really just have a good time."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lake Superior School District board of education and high school sports in Lake County. 

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