A happy Heikinpäivä

HANCOCK – Stormy Wilson was attending Heikinpaiva for the first time Saturday, but it was the second trip to the event for her husband, Casey, and to get into the spirit of the festivities they decided to take part in the wife carry.

The wife carry involves the husband carrying his spouse, either on his back, or less graciously over his shoulders, and completing a series of four tasks. The couple with the best time wins the contest, and Saturday the winners were the Wilsons, who are from Hancock, with a time of 34.7 seconds.

Despite the awkwardness of the carry, Stormy Wilson said she enjoyed taking part.

“I loved it,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Besides the wife carry, other events Saturday on the Finlandia University Quincy Green between the Finnish American Heritage Center and the First United Methodist Church on Quincy Street in Hancock, included a whip sled – which is a sled connected to a post mounted on another vertical post allowing for circular movement – and kick sled races, both of which were for children.

Indoors at the FAHC and church were tories, or markets, where handmade items and baked goods could be purchased. There was live music in both indoor venues, also.

The main event of the day was the parade, which featured several organizations, the Michigan Technological University Pep Band, local government officials and people dressed as characters from Finnish folklore.

Heikinpaiva is organized by the Finnish Theme Committee, and Becky Hoekstra, the organizations’ co-chair, said attendance this year was about the same as other years, helped by the relatively warm weather, which was especially enjoyed by those in the parade.

“It was comfortable walking in the parade,” she said.

Hoekstra said many of the people involved with planning Heikinpaiva were also involved with organizing FinnFest USA 2013, which will be based in Hancock.

Because of that splitting of responsibilities, events which in past years have taken place during the entire month of January were more compressed.

“It was more in one week instead of spread throughout the month,” she said.

One of the more popular events of Heikinpaiva which had to be cancelled this year was the Polar Bear Dive, which usually takes place in the Portage Canal.

The warm weather at the beginning of the month, which caused thin ice until recently, and the inability to find a location where participants could get warm after coming out of the water caused the event to be cancelled, Hoekstra said.

In the 12 years she’s been involved with Heikinpaiva, Hoekstra said this is the first time the Polar Bear Dive was cancelled.

Hoekstra said members of the Finnish Theme Committee won’t know how much money Heikinpiv raised this year until their next regular meeting on Feb. 14.

Cal Niemela of Chassell, who was giving his grandson, 5-year-old Joseph Aho, a push on the whip sled, said he’d been to a few Heikinpaivas, which he attends to help him keep in touch with his Finnish Heritage and to introduce his grandchildren to parts of that heritage.

“These children are the sixth generation,” Niemela said.

He grew up with both his great-grandmothers, Niemela said, and they both taught him about Finnish culture.

Niemela said he’s been to Finland a couple of times, but despite the shared heritage of people from the Keweenaw with those in the home country, there are some differences. For instance, what’s usually called nisu locally is called pulla in Finland.

“If you ask for nisu, they don’t know what you mean,” he said.