Heikinpaiva: A hot time on a cold day

HANCOCK – Despite the bitter cold, Dan Komarzec was attending Hancock’s Heikinpiv events for the fifth year in a row.

“We just like the Finnish heritage,” he said. “The toris (markets) are awesome.”

Komarzec, who is from Atlantic Mine, said his wife is Finnish American. The family also attends because his 9-year-old daughter, Leah, usually wins the children’s kick sled race. However, this year, probably because of the cold, there were only two entrants in the race; Leah for the girls, and 11-year-old Aiden Peryam for the boys.

Although the parade was well attended, by the time it was finished most people either left or went indoors to the two toris in the Finnish American Heritage Center and the First United Methodist Church on Quincy Street.

In past years, the crowd on Quincy Green between the FAHC and the church has been quite large for the wife-carrying contest, but this year, there were only about 50 people. The contest involves one person carrying another person – not necessarily a spouse – on the first person’s back then carrying out a set of four tasks based on traditional Finnish culture. The couple with the fastest time wins. This year, with a time of 59 seconds, the winners were Dr. Philip Johnson, president of Finlandia University, and his wife, Rene, assistant professor of religion and philosophy and director of Servant Leadership.

Rene Johnson said the reason for their success was technique.

“It’s the running jump,” she said of how she got on her husband’s back.

Second place with a time of 1 minute, 12 seconds were Jim and Elaine Schultz.

Jim Kurtti, co-chair of the Finnish Theme Committee, organizer of Heikinpiv, said the attendance for the outdoor activities was down from previous years.

“I think the weather man is scaring them,” he said.

However, Kurtti said the various indoor events were going well, with significant crowds at the toris.

“Indoors it’s warm and everybody’s enjoying it,” he said.

One of the people staying warm indoors was Don Wolf of Beachwood, Mich.

Wolf said his family’s Finnish name of Susi was changed when his ancestors first came to the United States.

After being cancelled in 2013, the Polar Bear Dive into Portage Lake was back this year, but Wolf said he had no interest in jumping in because of a past experience. “I once went into the North Atlantic and that was enough,” he said.