FinnFest crowds aid Bridgefest




HOUGHTON – The festival-packed weekend was wonderful for the same reason it was challenging: variety.

With a wide array of FinnFest USA 2013 activities happening almost constantly throughout the first official weekend of summer, Bridgefest at times benefited from the influx of people, and at times struggled to match its typical turnout.

“It was hard to contend with FinnFest, and yet we weren’t trying to contend with FinnFest,” said Amy Juntunen, Bridgefest committee chair. “We were just trying to offer a variety of things. It was definitely a unique experience.”

People packed the parade route Friday night in what appeared to be record numbers, but at noon Sunday a closing event in which people got the opportunity to literally beat the stuffing out of Heikki Lunta didn’t draw any crowd.

“I think a lot of people were tired and burnt out (Sunday),” Juntunen said in a phone interview Sunday evening. “There was so much to do, so much variety of events.”

Saturday had its attendance ebbs and flows as well, with some of the people taking part in the Nordic walking world-record-breaking event hanging around as vendors set up Saturday morning.

Crowds wavered throughout the day for bands at the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park, the adjacent beer tent manned by Copper Country Oldtimers hockey players, vendors along the waterfront and the 2 and 4 p.m. water ski shows by the Badwater Ski-ters.

The group from Spread Eagle, Wis., performed a variety of water ski tricks, including several jumps off a floating ramp, with the Portage Lake Lift Bridge providing a unique backdrop. The water skiers had to adjust to the same thing event goers had to throughout the weekend: weather.

While the rain held for Friday night’s parade, it put a kink in plans for the remainder of the night. Saturday was mostly overcast with the occasional sunlight peeking through, with varying but generally 60-some-degree temperatures.

“Just the threat of possible storms was enough to deter a lot of people from coming out,” Juntunen said.

That and the ongoing theme of so many events happening simultaneously. The annual Jon Davis Memorial Fireworks, for example, took place at the same time as the Juhannus midsummer bonfire at Agate Beach in Toivola.

“I think it was about the same as always as far as the (fireworks) crowd went, but a lot of Finlanders attended Juhannus. We had a lot of locals,” Juntunen said.

Bridgefest planners will take a much-needed break before gathering again in January to plan Bridgefest 2014. For those interested in being on the planning committee, or volunteering, email