Friday morning rain gushed from the sky.
Oh no–what a day to celebrate Finn Fest in the Copper Country. We frowned and hoped it might clear up.
Barry had to visit the Hanka Homestead, a 1920’s Finnish farm hidden back by Otter Lake, six miles from US 41 to take photographs and write a story for our local newspaper.
I opted to tag along, the tag-a-long wife, and snap some photos, too. Might as well have fun, right? Afterward we would continue on to Houghton to shop and eat out. (Eating out is one of our favorite occupations, you know.)
We prayed the rain might cease and desist. Not just for our sake–but for the sake of all the folks planning and visiting Finn Fest.
Of course, you’re wondering what the heck is Finn Fest? It’s a celebration of the many Finnish folk who immigrated from Finland and settled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Starting on Midsummer’s Eve back in 1865, some thirty Finns landed on the shores of the Portage Canal in Houghton and started working in the burgeoning copper mines the next day.
Finn Fest launched in 1983 and now celebrates annually all over the United States from Minneapolis to California to North Dakota. This year, lucky us, our Copper Country hosted the week-long event. We’re fond of the Finns up here.
While the main ceremonies and teachings took place up in “da Copper Country” just north of us, Baraga County leaped in with events of our own. More than fifty vendors set up booths (unfortunately, not along Lake Superior as planned, but in Meadowbrook Arena where kids ice skate and play hockey in the wintertime. Due to the rain, you understand.) We had fashion shows and free Finnish sweet breads and concerts and all sorts of “Tervetuloa” (which basically means “welcome” in Finn.) The advertisements said “Finnish your festival in Baraga County.”
One of the must-see Finnish sites in the area is the Hanka Homestead. The Hanka family built the farm in 1920 after the dad, Herman, was injured in a mine blast by a dynamite explosion. (Those mines proved challenging places to work. Many Finns and non-Finns lost their lives during the copper boom.)
Herman, his wife and four grown children set to building a house and barn and several outbuildings, as well as clearing the land for farm fields.
Barry’s visited the Hanka Homestead many times and written stories about it for the newspaper over the years. I can’t recall if I’ve been there before. I am 82% sure the answer is no, but Barry thinks he recalls my tag-a-long presence a couple of decades back.
If I was there I’ve mostly forgotten, so it was enjoyable to follow the muddy two-track back in the woods toward the old-time farm. (It was enjoyable as long as we didn’t get stuck. The tour bus filled with Finn-lovers mired out in the mud, unfortunately, and couldn’t reach the backwoods historical farm.)
The sky ceased raining and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring the out-buildings, watching some of the local folk –including a couple of close friends–dress like the Hanka family and demonstrate skills the old-timers used to survive on the farm.
I will let you look at the photos now. Settle in to swat away mosquitoes as you admire the buildings and imagine what it was like to farm the rough Upper Peninsula country-side back in the early twentieth century.
When you’re done reading, help yourself to some Nisu. Mmmm, good braided cardamom Finnish sweet bread. And have some coffee, too, eh?
Come back and visit again soon. Don’t wait until the next Finn Fest! The Hanka Homestead is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (plus holidays) from noon to 4:00. And, if you don’t mind a self-guided tour, come any time.
Any time it hasn’t rained too much that is! I wouldn’t venture out if it’s rained 2.50 inches in the previous day. Not unless you own a four-wheel drive truck and want to play in the mud.