Save the Booya!Last year, the organizers of the Harvest Booya and Finnfest had to make a tough decision. The ranks of volunteers were thinning and younger ones were not stepping in to fill the roster, so in 2012, for the first time since 1985, the booya was cancelled. Unwilling to give up on the beloved fall festival, Stacy Breden and Julie Arnold went to work--now they are hoping to Save the Booya.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
The Harvest Booya and Finnfest started as a way to raise money to re- roof the Zion Lutheran Church building in Finland, but by the time the funds were raised and new roof was complete, the celebration had established itself in the small community
Verna Sinderman, one of the events original coordinators, was involved in the festival for over two decades and said the idea came from her husband, Jim, who mentioned that he had seen fire departments selling booya as a fundraiser in his native Eagan, Minn. He said they’d put the ingredients for the hearty stew into a canoe, cooking it overnight and stirring it with the vessel’s paddle. The idea was a hit with organizers in Finland and the rest is history.
“We did it for 26 years,” said Verna Sinderman, but first they had to come up with a recipe. That responsibility fell to the event’s first booya chef, Mary Nickolai, Verna Sinderman’s mom and long-time Lake County News-Chronicle correspondent from Finland.
Nickolai did some looking around and finally found a recipe in an old Zion Lutheran Church cookbook. It called for 200 pounds meat, including ham, turkey, beef and chicken. Sinderman said her mother experimented with the recipe on a smaller scale and came up with her own version, which used stock, several pounds of root vegetables and a secret blend of spices in addition to the meat and poultry. Sinderman said she still doesn’t know which spices were used in her mom’s original blend.
To make a booya, the cooking started the morning before the event, when soup bones from Zup’s Food Market were simmered to make stock. Then, slabs of fresh meat were grilled and the veggies were chopped. Finally, sometime in the afternoon, everything was combined in a big pot, the secret spices were added and the soup was left to simmer over a gas stove overnight.
“It was a lot of legwork, but we were successful and I’m glad we did it,” Sinderman said.
Last year, however, the organizers had to make a tough decision. The ranks of volunteers were thinning and younger ones were not stepping in to fill the roster, so in 2012, for the first time since 1985, the booya was cancelled.
“I hated to see it die but we just couldn’t keep it up,” Sinderman said.
Unwilling to give up on the beloved fall festival, Stacy Breden and Julie Arnold went to work. They said they just couldn’t bear to see the booya end.
“I live in Finland and it’s a community. I hate to see something I grew up with be gone for my kids. It’s just such a part of our culture,” Breden said.
So the pair took on the difficult task of coordinating the 2013 Harvest Booya and Finnfest. Arnold lives near the Twin Cities now, but is helping with the graphic design and marketing. Breden is handling the local work, starting with fundraising—dozens of pounds of veggies and meat aren’t cheap.
The Booya Committee is beginning with a pie fundraiser. Fans of the dessert (and who isn’t a fan?) can purchase ready-to-bake or thaw-and-serve pies. The pies run $12-$14 and can be purchased from Breden for pick-up at the Clair Nelson Rec Center on March 1, from 4-6 p.m. Special delivery is available upon request.
They’ve also set out donation buckets throughout the community and they’re planning a silent auction in June at the Finland Softball Tournament. Any direct donations can go to the North Shore Federal Credit Union—just write checks to the Friends of the Finland Community Booya Account. Donations are tax-deductible. When the festival starts turning a profit, proceeds will go to the Friends of the Finland Community.
To purchase a pie, contact Breden at (218) 353-7366 or visit the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/savethebooya.
When September rolls around, Breden and Arnold will likely be sleeping in a tent or camper alongside the simmering booya, waking up every couple of hours to stir the bubbling stew—as did the booya-makers before them. Sinderman’s convinced it will turn out perfectly, even without the secret spice combination her mother used.
“Anybody can make good booya,” Sinderman said.