Finland gearing up for St. Urho's DayThe origins of St. Urho’s Day will forever be disputed. Some claim Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji began the legend of St. Urho, and others credit Richard Mattson of Virginia. In the pages of the News-Chronicle in 2011, Karl Aho argued that Herman, a Mesabi Daily News employee, started the St. Urho fable.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
The origins of St. Urho’s Day will forever be disputed. Some claim Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji began the legend of St. Urho, and others credit Richard Mattson of Virginia. In the pages of the News-Chronicle in 2011, Karl Aho argued that Herman, a Mesabi Daily News employee, started the St. Urho fable.
Regardless of how the story started, St. Urho’s Day quickly became a mainstay of the Finland, Minn., calendar and each year over 1,000 folks descend on the town dressed in purple and green to celebrate the saint who purportedly saved Finland’s grape crop from grasshoppers.
“I know it was made up…but I’m really glad that somebody made it up,” said Honor Schauland, director of the Friends of the Finland Community.
The festival is strategically planned for the day before St. Patrick’s Day—March 16—but the preparations begin long before. Schauland said she gathers informal input about the celebration all year. Plans begin to gel after coordinators and community meet for the first time in the fall. That’s when the most important detail is decided--the theme.
“That gives anybody building a float or making a costume something to go with,” Schauland said.
This year, the theme is Finnish Medieval—which Schauland said she hopes will get people curious about Finland’s Middle Ages.
The parade, the heart of the festival, takes place on Saturday. In mid-January Cheri Bischoff, the parade organizer, sends letters to previous parade participants and applies for permits and sheriff escorts. She said she’s seen all sorts of floats—and weather—over the years. One year, it was 30 degrees below zero, and last year the temperature broke 60 degrees.
”Everybody was in t-shirts and cutting off their sleeves,” she recalled.
While she can’t control the weather, she does control the flow of the parade, organizing the 15-25 floats, which follow “parade etiquette.” Local dignitaries, including festival favorite, Miss Helmi, who is crowned the evening before the parade, are among those who appear toward the beginning of the procession.
“It’s just a good family atmosphere for people to just get a break from the winter. Winters are long up here,” Bischoff said.
The economic impact is felt in the Finland area, too.
“Ultimately, it brings in a lot of money at the end of the winter season. It brings in a boom at the end when they really need it,” Schauland said.
Sue Butler, the owner of the Trestle Inn Restaurant and Saloon, said her business is invaded by “green and purple people” over St. Urho’s weekend—although she serves Irish food.
“It’s always a good weekend,” Butler said.
Though Schauland is ultimately in charge of the festival, it’s not a one-woman gig, she said.
“Realistically, the whole town of Finland helps put it on,” she said.
The final schedule of events isn’t complete, but watch the News-Chronicle for updates closer to the date of the event. In the meantime, watch for the St. Urho’s Goodwill Tour around the beginning of March, when Friends of the Finland Community will spend a day or two in local communities selling raffle tickets and buttons—and inviting folks to share in their fondness for Finland.