A Finn time at the Tori FestivalThe 26-year-old Finland Minnesota Historical Society hosted its annual Tori Festival last weekend.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
The 26-year-old Finland Minnesota Historical Society hosted its annual Tori Festival last weekend.
Visitors from every corner of the state came to celebrate their Finnish heritage or just observe traditions old and new. Demonstrations included spoon carving, wool spinning, rug weaving and blacksmithing.
Food from the kitchen, or the keittiö, also had some Finnish flair. Herring, a traditional favorite, sold out quickly. Other Finnish staples include cardamom bread, cucumber salad and rice pudding.
Vendors sold locally-produced crafts and Finnish-style products. Classic cars and bands added to the atmosphere and a raffle for cash prizes concluded the event. The festival, run entirely by volunteers, was held at the Finland Minnesota Heritage Site.
The land where the site stands is the result of an unsolved mystery. It belonged to John Pine, who homesteaded the land and lived there until 1960 when he disappeared.
”He disappeared mysteriously and nobody could find any trace of him,” historical society president Bonnie Tikkanen said.
Lake County took over Pine’s land and then later handed it over to the historical society for the heritage site.
Pine’s former home still stands and is outfitted much like it was when he lived there.
The volunteer historical society raised the money and provided the labor to make the heritage site what it is today. The cornerstone is the Heritage Museum, finished in 2008. It features stories of the first settlers—Tikannens, Haveris and Kalendars—many of whom still have descendants in the area.
The site also includes the Park Hill School, outfitted like a one-room school house from the early 1900s. In fact, the building operated as a school from 1917-1928. This year during the Tori Festival, BJ Kohlstedt dressed up like a school marm from the past and give traditional lessons to guests.
A sauna, blacksmith shop, hiking trail and memorial orchard round out the site. It’s maintained by Dick and Judy Reinke who camp at the site all summer in exchange for their services. The couple mows the grass, maintains the buildings and give tours. The site is open during the summer 11-4 p.m. Thursday-Monday.
Members of the historical society dedicate countless hours to the various projects at the heritage site, said President Bonnie Tikkanen.
“The stress of organizing events is hard, especially the Tori,” she said.
The society is entirely volunteer and most have Finnish roots they will be happy to tell you about (though it isn’t a requirement for membership). Some are still fluent in Finnish or spoke it in their younger years.
Bob Nikolai, historical society volunteer and lifelong Finland resident, is half Finnish and laughed when identifying his fellow volunteers—almost all of whom seemed to be his cousin.
They’re passionate about everything Finnish, Nikolai said, but they worry about who will take over the reigns when they can’t handle the work anymore. One of his fellow volunteers, in her early seventies and his cousin (of course), is one of the younger volunteers, he said.
“We can always use new members and volunteers. Memorials can be given for loved ones, too,” Tikkanen said.
Anyone who wants to volunteer or donate to the historical society can find more information at www.finlandmnhistoricalsociety.com or by mail: P.O. Box 583, Finland, Minn., 55603.
The next public event is on Dec. 6: Pikku Joulu, or Little Christmas. It includes a potluck supper, a traditional program and Finnish Santa Claus. It starts at 5 p.m. at Clair Nelson Intermodal Center in Finland.
“The Pikku Jolu is a really fun time. I like the Tori but I work the whole time so I don’t get to enjoy it so much,” Tikkanen said.