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Finland preps for festival dedicated to fictional saint

Hundreds turned out in Finland for the annual St. Urho's Day Parade on March 17. (News-Chronicle file)1 / 2
Sam Anderson (right), winner of the 2018 Miss Helmi Talent and Beauty Contest, shows off his trophy to the crowd while his "armed escort" Calvin Leitch Lodge fends off anyone looking to get too friendly during the St. Urho's Day Parade in Finland last year. (News-Chronicle file)2 / 2

Finland is gearing up for its 44th annual St. Urho's Day celebration March 15-17. This year's theme is "Catching Hoppers: St. Urho Builds a Thingamajiggy."

"A 'thingamajiggy' is just like when you're grabbing for a tool and can't find it and you're like, 'Hey, hand me that 'thingamajiggy,' because you can't think of the right word," St. Urho event coordinator Honor Schauland said. "Or it could be an elaborate trap that is so elaborate it's hard to give it a name, so you call it a 'thingamajiggy.'"

Schauland said she hopes the mechanically minded and create people of Finland will take this theme and run with it when creating their parade floats, festival events and own costumes.

"This is an interesting one. We have a lot of really mechanically minded and talented folks in our community who I'm sure will create some really amazing 'thingamajigs,'" Schauland said. "But it's hard to predict what they'll be and what they'll look like. Sometimes they take the theme in directions I never thought of and that's the fun part."

But who is this St. Urho, anyway? He's the fictional saint of Finland is claimed to have driven the grasshoppers out of the nation. The holiday originated on the Iron Range in the 1950s. Finland has been holding a celebration of the saint for almost as long and has built up their own traditions.

One such tradition is the crowning of Miss Helmi, who Schauland explained is "kind of St. Urho's girlfriend." The festival kicks off Friday, March 15, with the Miss Helmi talent show and beauty pageant. The event travels to various locations throughout town and at the last stop, the winner of the pageant is crowned Miss Helmi and will be included in the parade the following morning. The various restaurants and bars of Finland will also have live music and food and drink specials throughout the evening.

On Saturday, March 16, the festival starts up again with the Finland Historical Society pancake feed from 8-10:30 a.m. After the feed, people start lining up for the annual parade, which starts at noon. The route passes through Finland via Minnesota Highway 1. While waiting for the parade to start, Schauland said there are usually a few bouts of tug-of-war on the bridge across the Baptism River.

Following the parade, there are crafts, kids games, a lunch and traditional Finnish music at the Clair Nelson Center and other music and entertainment at the various restaurants and bars the rest of the day.

The festival wraps up Sunday, March 17, with the annual raffle drawing. Raffle tickets will be for sale throughout the entire festival, the proceeds of which go towards paying for the festival.

If you're eager to get a taste of St. Urho a week early, there will be St. Urho costume, prop and float making workshops on from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 8-10 at the Clair Nelson Center. Those interested are recommended to bring large pieces of cardboard and brown paper bags for papier mache.

For more information on St. Urho's Day celebrations, visit friendsoffinland.org/st-urho-2019.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

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