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Finn News: Celebrate Vappu (May Day) on May 1

Spring is here and things are beginning to pop and bloom! In addition to the flowers and grass, we've got quite a bunch of activities coming up for Finns and friends in the area, and many of them are giving chances for special celebration of Finland's 100th anniversary.

Although it's not celebrated as much in the U.S., "Vappu," or May Day, is an important Finnish holiday on May 1, especially for students and workers. Known as the "Memorial Day of Saint Labor," Vappu has been celebrated in Finland since 1890 and is a paid holiday for those employed. Everyone, including students, gather for big festivals in city streets and marketplaces. Students gather around statues, such as the "havasamanda" in Helsinki, and wash their statue before putting a white student cap on the statue's head. Then the students all throw their white caps into the air (like the lead-in to the old Mary Tyler Moore shows). Special treats during the day include sima (a homemade lemon beverage that is partially fermented) and tippaleipä (a Finnish type of fritter). Other treats are also enjoyed, especially beer.

We have the chance to celebrate Vappu at a special Vappu celebration dance sponsored by the Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society, Duluth Chapter 1 from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Shriner Auditorium on Highway 53 in Hermantown. Dance to some great Finnish music and old time tunes by the Mae Pracher Band. Or just come and listen, visit and watch the festivities. Tickets are $10 at the door and include pulla, coffee and bars. This is a family dance (kid's included) and everyone is invited and welcome to join us! Tervetuloa!!

The next meeting of Finnish Americans and Friends will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, the Tourist Center Senior Citizens, on East Howard Street in Hibbing. Speaker Pat Eilola will talk about Finland's wars with Sweden and Russia. Coffee and the business meeting will follow. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Saturday, May 6, marks the opening day for Sampo Beach on Little Grand Lake in Saginaw. Members and friends of Sampo are encouraged come at 9 a.m. to clean the buildings and grounds. Bring buckets, rags, rakes and gloves. Bring a goodie, too, for the coffee time and a lunch (or lunch item to share) if you plan to stay through lunch. By working together, we have a great time and also get a lot of cleaning and projects done. Come and help us get Sampo ready for everyone to enjoy this summer!

The accordion has been an important musical instrument for the Finns for many years, especially for our tango and waltz dances. If you love accordion music or would like to learn how to play this cool instrument, head to the Harrington Arts Center, 1401 Belknap St. in Superior, on Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the two days will be filled with concerts, lectures, and jam sessions. Some big name accordion musicians will be coming, and at least one of them is of Finnish heritage. For more information, contact the World of Accordion Museum (Harrington Arts Center) at 715-395-2787.

Following are some upcoming meetings across the Northland. Guests and new members are welcomed by all.

• The Ladies of Kaleva Aallottaren Tupa #15 will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, May 8, at Kenwood Lutheran Church, 2720 Myers Ave., Duluth. Beatrice Ojakangas will present a program about growing up Finn in Floodwood and about her experiences of living in Finland. She will also have some of her cookbooks for sale. A coffee time and meeting will follow the program.

• he Knights and Ladies of Kaleva Pohjolaisen Maja #25 and Soinnuttaren Tupa #32 will meet Thursdays, May 11 and 25, starting at 6 p.m. at Kaleva Hall, 125 Third St. N. in Virginia.

• The Knights and Ladies of Kaleva Otavan Maja #7 and Valvottaren Tupa #20 will meet at Kaleva Island, south of Eveleth, at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 17.

• The Ladies of Kaleva Väinöttären Tupa #24 will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at Thomson Town Hall, 25 E. Harney Road, Esko.

• The Ladies of Kaleva Vellamon Tupa #4 will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at the Grahek Apartments Community Room. For more, contact Sally at sk_koski@yahoo.com or 218-365-3928.

Looking ahead, put the following events on your calendar so you don't miss them! More information will be coming next month.

• The Knights of Kaleva Pohjolaisen Maja #25 will sponsor their annual summer Juhannus and Memorial Banquet and program at Kaleva Hall on Thursday, June 1. The public is invited. For more information, contact 218-365-3928.

• The traveling sauna will stop at the following Northland locations during early June: June 2 in Duluth (Park Point Waterfront); June 3 in Embarrass (for National Sauna Day); June 4 in Virginia (at Olcott Park); and June 5 in Hibbing (at Carey Lake). Plan to stop by one of these locations to check out this beautiful, impressive traveling sauna that has been making its way around the whole country. Even if you don't take a sauna, there will be lots of other Finns and friends to visit with. Bring your kids, relatives and friends to this once-in-a-lifetime event!! (To find out about more this sauna, go to travelingsauna.com. Click "map" to see where it is today!)

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• The Tuesday, June 6 meeting of the Hibbing Finnish Americans and Friends will feature Aaron Brown, from the Hibbing Daily Tribune, discussing his interviews with Gus Hall, the Iron Range's long-time Finnish Communist Party presidential candidate. More info will be coming.

• The Finnish Naantali Chamber Choir will present a concert at 7 p.m. Friday, June 9, at First Lutheran Church in Duluth. If you would like to join the 1 p.m. lunch to visit with the choir, RSVP by May 30.

• The Ely Folk School is planning its Finnish Midsummer Weekend for June 23-25. They are looking for crafters and people interested in exhibiting or teaching classes. For more info on helping or attending, contact Jaime at 218-235-0138 or coordinator@elyfolkschool.org.

• Finally, on Saturday, June 24, the Finn Hall Band will perform a concert and dance at Kaleva Hall in Virginia.

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Put these dates on your calendar and check next month for more information on these and other activities! You can also keep informed of Finnish activities by checking the Facebook page of Finland 100 Northland.

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