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St. Urho's Day returns to Finland

Organizers in the North Shore community of Finland are making final preparations for that most curious of celebrations: St. Urho's Day. The celebration, to be held Friday through Sunday, is in its 41st year and is thought to be the longest-runnin...

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Spectators watch the parade at the 40th annual St. Urho’s Day celebration in Finland in March 2015. (Adelle Whitefoot / Lake County News-Chronicle)
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Organizers in the North Shore community of Finland are making final preparations for that most curious of celebrations: St. Urho's Day.

The celebration, to be held Friday through Sunday, is in its 41st year and is thought to be the longest-running St. Urho's Day event in Minnesota, according to organizer Honor Schauland.

St. Urho's Day celebrates a fictional saint who is said to have driven the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland (the country), saving the grapes that Finnish vineyard workers depended on. The story originated in Minnesota in the 1950s but has grown to be celebrated by people of Finnish descent around North America and even in Finland.

"It's gotten to be a much bigger celebration over the years," Schauland said. "We really put a lot of effort into getting the word out, (having) activities for everyone and just (being) a really fun thing to do at the end of winter when we're all kind of bored and cabin-feverish."

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After planning, preparation and construction of floats and costumes, the celebration will kick off in earnest Friday night with the "Miss Helmi Talent and Beauty Contest."

Contestants - all men - will don dresses and perform at bars and restaurants around Finland and attempt to maintain the act throughout the evening.

"It's a little ridiculous, but that's the idea," Schauland said.

Saturday morning, festivities will rev back up with a pancake breakfast to benefit the Finland Minnesota Historical Society from 8-10:30 a.m. at the Clair Nelson Center. The cost is $5, and attendees can fuel up for the parade and party that follow.

The parade starts at noon, but Schauland advised that spectators should get there early. The Finland St. Urho's Day parade, the only one in Minnesota that shuts down a state highway, draws a huge crowd to the tiny community.

"It's kind of unbelievable. Finland is a very small town, about 300 or so people," Schauland said. "But on St. Urho's Day, by 11:30 there are at least 1,000 people out on Highway 1."

After the parade there will be a sloppy joe lunch and Finnish folk music from local musician Casey Aro at the Clair Nelson Center, and entertainment into the evening at local bars and restaurants.

In addition, the Finland Fire Department will raise money by selling brats and hamburgers, and students from William Kelley School in Silver Bay will sell St. Urho's Day T-shirts to raise money for their After Prom party.

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The Friends of the Finland Community also will be raising money to help pay for the event by selling raffle tickets for $1 and St. Urho's Day buttons for $2. Raffle tickets will be drawn Sunday evening at 5 p.m. for various door prizes and a $600 cash prize.

Find more information about the event at facebook.com/sturho .

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Brian Ernest, dressed as North Shore Federal Credit Union’s Urho Queen, waves to parade-watchers from the back of a truck during the St. Urho’s Day celebration in Finland in March 2015. (Adelle Whitefoot / Lake County News-Chronicle)

Related Topics: LAKE COUNTYTWO HARBORS
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