FinnFest USA 2013 to feature local talent


Submitted photo

Elise Besonen, 10, sings while her father, Brad Besonen, plays the guitar. Elise will perform at the opening ceremony for FinnFest USA 2013 in Houghton June 19.

HANCOCK — Ever since her class took a trip to Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center about a year ago, Ewen-Trout Creek fifth-grader Elise Besonen has dreamed of performing on that stage.

Later this month, she’ll get to fulfill her dream — in a big way.

Besonen, 10, will be one of the musicians performing at the opening ceremony for FinnFest USA 2013 on the evening of June 19 at the Rozsa Center in Houghton. Her vocal talents caught the eye of festival chairman Jim Kurtti, of Hancock, when she performed in a children’s choir on Christmas Eve at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ewen.

“When Jim, who has roots in nearby Bruce Crossing, gave us a call and asked, we were excited,” said Brad Besonen, Elise’s father. “I wasn’t really familiar with how big an event it is, but when we looked into it, we got really excited.”

Elise Besonen discovered she enjoyed the stage the first time she performed with her father, who is the music teacher for Ewen schools.

“It’s just fun singing on stage. I am really happy and excited,” said Elise.

“When she was 2, she was on stage with me at a talent show,” Brad said. “And every year since, she’s been part of our local talent shows.”

At the FinnFest opening ceremony, Elise will be singing a solo of “Sunnuntaiaamuna,” or “On Sunday Morning,” with one verse in English, and one in Finnish. It’ll be her first time singing in any language other than English, but she says she’s up for the challenge.

“It’s different,” she said, “but it’s really exciting and is a big opportunity.”

Elise’s parents, Brad and Jacky, are excited for their daughter and for the festival as well.

“For our families, being part of FinnFest is a big deal,” Brad said. “My mother-in-law was a Linna, and in my family there are Besonens and Puumalas. We’re definitely a Finnish-American family.”

The Besonens will be joining hundreds of Finnish Americans and people from Finland at the FinnFest, centered at Finlandia University in Hancock June 19-23.

The opening ceremony will be at 7 p.m., June 19 at the Rozsa Center. Seating is limited to registered FinnFest guests. Register at, or call 906-487-7560.

FinnFest is an annual event that dates back to 1983 and has been hosted at locations across the country.

Last year it was in Tucson, Ariz. The year before that, it was in SanDiego.

Prior to that, it was held in:

2010 — Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

2009 — an Alaskan cruise

2008 — Duluth, Minn.

2007 — Ashtabula, Ohio

2006 — Naselle, Wash. and Astoria, Ore.

2005 — Marquette

2004 — Lake Worth, Fla.

2002 —Minneapolis

2001 — Philadelphia

2000 — Toronto

1999 — Seattle

1998 — Portland, Maine.

1997 — Minot, N.D.

1996 — Marquette

1995 — Portland, Ore.

1994 — DeKalb, Ill.

1993 — Thousand Oaks, Calif.

1992 — Duluth, Minn.

1991 — Lake Worth, Fla.

1990 — Hancock

1989 — Seattle

1988 — Newark, Del.

1987 — Detroit

1986 — Berkeley, Calif.

1985 — Hancock

1984 — Fitchburg, Mass.

1983 — Minneapolis


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