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Find your inner Finn this weekend at Laskiainen sliding festival

Volunteers on Thursday sliced vegetables to make mojakka and put the final touches on the famous slides as preparations for Palo's annual Laskiainen festival neared completion.

Sliding down the tracks
A sled travels down the sliding tracks behind the Loon Lake Community Center during Laskiainen, a Finnish sliding festival at the Loon Lake Community Center in Palo. (2012 file / News Tribune)

Volunteers on Thursday sliced vegetables to make mojakka and put the final touches on the famous slides as preparations for Palo's annual Laskiainen festival neared completion.

The Finnish sliding festival returns for its 76th year this weekend at the Loon Lake Community Center, with several thousand people expected to attend for a taste of Finnish cuisine and culture -- and a trip or two down the icy slides out onto the frozen lake.

"It's just a fun place with something for everyone," said organizing committee member Kathy Saumer. "Everybody's a Finn at Laskiainen."

Laskiainen (pronounced LUS-key-eye-nen) has its origins in a centuries-old Finnish tradition that links the growth of crops -- flax, in particular -- to the distance sliders can guide their sleds down an icy run. The farther you slide, the taller your crops will grow.

Saumer said a volunteer crew started building this year's slides behind the community center about two weeks ago, banking up snow and icing the chutes on cold nights to create a fast run down to the lake.

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The festival kicks off tonight with the Queen's Ball and Coronation. Things really get under way on Saturday, with a Finnish breakfast from 7:30-11 a.m., mojakka (Finnish stew) lunch from noon to 4 p.m., artisan demonstrations and vendors from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and sleigh rides from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., among other activities.

Most of those same events continue at about the same times Sunday, but with pea soup for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a 1:30 p.m. musical performance by "Divas through the Decades."

Sliding takes place all day on Saturday and Sunday; bring your own sled. Admission is free, with charges for food, vendors' items and the Sunday show.

Laskiainen in Palo dates back to the late 1930s, when similar events were held at 19 rural schools in St. Louis County. Only the event in Palo has endured to this day.

The festival takes place at the Loon Lake Community Center on County Highway 100 about 10 miles south of Aurora. From Duluth, take County Highway 4 north about 50 miles to Highway 100, then turn right and go another 1½ miles.

Laskiainen
Jadon Aultman (from left), 10, Shari Aultman, and Jay Johnson, all of Grand Rapids, ride a plastic toboggan during Laskiainen, a Finnish sliding festival at the Loon Lake Community Center in Palo in February 2012. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

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