FinnFest 25 Takes Place In Duluth

July 23rd throughJuly 27th

FinnFest USA celebrates its 25th such festival this year as FinnFest 2008 takes place in Duluth, MN, July 23-27, 2008. Under the theme “Sharing the Spirit of Finland”, the event will honor Finnish culture and heritage and is expected to attract 7,000-10,000 people to its variety of dance performances, concerts, lectures, art exhibitions and tours.

Highlighting the five-day celebration will be a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra, directed by the Finnish Music Director Osmo Vänskä. The President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, has been officially invited to attend the event and the FinnFest 2008 organizing committee is hopeful to host her honor along with other dignitaries from Finland.

According to Jeanne Doty and Diane Fay Skomars, co-chairs of the FinnFest 2008, “We want to welcome everyone to our five-day celebration. It is open to everyone. Our festival will offer a great variety of events for those that have come to know Finland, share the love for it, and those that would like to learn more about it. “

Calling all Finns, Finnish Americans and friends of Finnish culture nationwide, the first FinnFest event was organized in 1983 in Minneapolis, and has enjoyed a robust history since.

“The first FinnFest was an innovation. In its successful 25 years, it has become a strong and important cultural tradition,” said Marianne Wargelin, President of FinnFest USA. “The past events have been powerful in many ways - changing peoples lives, initiating innovations, and creating a strong network with those that share a love for Finland.”

For the past 25 years, FinnFest USA has been the beacon of Finnish- American ethnic identity in the United States. Since the first FinnFest the festival has been hosted in fifteen different states and has joined forces with the Canadian Finnish Grand Fest twice. The FinnFest host sites have brought Finnish culture to the forefront in their respective communities, and the festival continues to bring Finnish-Americans a renewed pride in their colorful past, while bringing Finland closer to America.

With its roots in Minnesota soil, this year's FinnFest will bring the ethnic celebration back to Duluth, where it was also held in 1992. The culture and enthusiasm of northern Minnesota, one of the strongest Finnish-American immigrant locales on the North American continent, is a logical choice for FinnFest USA to celebrate its 25th anniversary. This year’s event will be the fourth FinnFest held in Minnesota. It will make great waves on the shore of Lake Superior and in the Duluth community by involving the heavily Finn-populated community in planning, organizing and participation.

Programming at this year’s FinnFest includes later generation Finnish- Americans working with Finns currently living and working in the United States. The schedule of events, performers, and special guests celebrates not only the traditions of our Finnish-American past, but bridges the gap between the immigrants of nearly a century ago with the contemporary culture of Finland today.

Today, FinnFest is international. With greater ease at communication through cell phones, the internet, and a global market, FinnFest at 25 is more than a Finnish-American Festival. It brings people of Finnish descent and friends of Finnish culture together from around the world to celebrate an abiding identification with a proud, strong and independent nation. From the legend of Kalevala, to the fight for sovereignty in the Winter War, to the swelling of emotion at the playing of Sibelius’ Finlandia, FinnFest is a shining example of Finnish culture and traditions.

FinnFest USA was born out of the necessity for many Finnish-Americans to maintain a sense of their heritage. As for so many other ethnic traditions in the United States, first- and second-generation Finnish Americans longed for those who “lived ethnic” daily—bathing in saunas, singing Finnish music, performing Finnish dance, eating Finnish food, and speaking the language. As later-generation Finnish- Americans were assimilated into American life, local Finnish groups struggled to maintain Finnish festivals in their small communities. A sense of community was being lost to offspring of the original immigrants. The success of FinnFest for the past 25 years is a sign that the national festival is doing its job of purveying Finnishness to all who hold their identity dear.

The two Co-Chairs of the FinnFest 2008, Diane Skomars and Jeanne Doty
and the President of FinnFest USA Marianne Wargelin (in the middle).
Ira Salmela
Chair, Publicity Committee
(218) 213-6080






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