Chamber hears FinnFest update

HOUGHTON – The upcoming FinnFest presents an opportunity to showcase numerous aspects of the Keweenaw.

Kevin Manninen of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce spoke about the upcoming FinnFest at the chamber’s Eggs & Issues forum Thursday at the Shelden Grill in Houghton.

Manninen gave a conservative estimate of 6,000 visitors coming to the festival, which is scheduled for June 19-23. A FinnFest in Marquette in 2005 brought about $11 million to the area.

There will be a combination of music, dances, performances and lectures throughout FinnFest.

The Hunting Museum of Finland will bring an exhibit to FinnFest on the hunting history of the Upper Peninsula. There will be two forums on June 19. One is an education forum, which will include speakers such as Finlandia University President Philip Johnson and Finnish education expert Pasi Salberg.

“They’re doing some interesting things and I think this is a very good opportunity to share ideas,” Manninen said.

A business forum, “Rediscovering Business and Technology in the New World,” will focus on bioenergy opportunities as well as trade and investment. Manninen said the goal is to introduce regional companies to business opportunities in Finland, and also market the Upper Peninsula as a “soft landing site” in North America for Finnish companies.

“We’re saying, three, four generations later, it’s time for Finns to rediscover our area,” he said.

On that Saturday, there will be an attempt to break the world record for Nordic walking, which is done with specifically designed poles. The current record is 1,026, set in Sweden in 2007. And Thunder Bay, Ontario is launching its own attempt the week after FinnFest.

“We are not only going to break that record, we are going to smash it,” Manninen said.

Though FinnFest is centered at the Michigan Technological University Student Development Complex, events will take place in Houghton, Hancock and throughout the area. Calumet will host events Thursday to honor the 100th anniversary of the 1913 strike.

Some of the major challenges of FinnFest include finding enough housing, which will involve hotels and motels, but also dorms, private rentals and if possible, guests in local homes.

“You may have a lot that would be interested in staying in private homes, experiencing American life that way,” he said.

In addition to the direct economic impact of the visits and the business ties being established, Manninen said, it’s also a chance to establish the Keweenaw as a repeat destination.

“A lot of people will be coming here for the first time, and here’s a chance to say, ‘Don’t make this your last time,'” he said.

For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit