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Little Finland fetes Juhannus


Ryan Jarvi/Daily Globe

FINNISH FOLK dancers perform during Little Finland's midsummer celebration on Saturday. Shown in front, from left, are Nancy and Carlton Rudolph, and Debbie Dowd and Seija Jarvenpaa. Hidden behind them are the two other dancing couples, Virginia Benninghoff and Irene Vuorenmaa, and Tony and Marge Lahti.

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.


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