Little Finland fetes Juhannus
HURLEY - Little Finland held its midsummer festival on Saturday and celebrated with a little dancing, some food and a bonfire at its cultural center and gift shop near Hurley.
"Midsummer's day is a holiday celebrated in Finland, and we celebrate it here by lighting a bonfire; in Finnish it's called a kokko tuli," Virginia Benninghoff said.
Benninghoff has been a member of Little Finland since 2000, when she moved back to Wisconsin from California. She was born and raised in Oma, Wis.
"Oma is a Finnish word you know," she said. "All the early immigrants wanted their own place to live; it was very important to them so they put their homes and saunas up and named it Oma."
The Juhannus, or midsummer, festival included traditional Finnish folk dancing, refreshments, a 50/50 Raffle drawing and of course a "kokko tuli."
"It's fun," said Steven Schurtter, a member of Little Finland. "You come out, you do kind of a pitch-in, you get some good dance music - of course with this ethnicity, polka is real (popular); even I can polka."
The midsummer festival is the biggest celebration in Finland, bigger than Christmas, Irene Vuorenmaa said. It is typically held on the Saturday between June 20-26.
"This is a day to celebrate," Vuorenmaa said. "It's a big celebration in Finland and that's what we want; to keep it up here with the Joneses. I came from Finland and this means a lot to me."
Little Finland will also celebrate 50 years of existence next month. A three-day celebration will be held at the cultural center on U.S. 2, west of Hurley, July 25-27.
The celebration will feature a variety of musical acts, food demonstrations and a beginner's Finnish language lesson.
For more information, call 715-561-4360.