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 UMD Connects to FinnFest 2008

UMD Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Share Finnish Heritage at FinnFest 2008

The University of Minnesota Duluth is participating in FinnFest 2008 in a big way! The five-day festival, July 23-27, will be held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC), situated on Lake Superior in downtown Duluth. Over a dozen UMD faculty, staff, and alumni are part of an array of scholars, presenters, and performers at the festival.

FinnFest events include a contemporary fashion show, a scenic train ride, a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, a golf scramble, a midnight 5K run, and a high profile visit by the president of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen. Add to that a rock concert, numerous area tours, nightly dances, Finnish cuisine, close to 300 lectures and concerts, and a women’s panel featuring national leaders. Tickets for major events are now available at the UMD Kirby Information Desk.

“Sharing the Spirit of Finland” is the title of this year’s FinnFest, with programs focusing around four major themes: Finnish culture; the music of Finland; the contributions of women of Finnish heritage, and the Finnish-Anishinaabe connection. The title underscores a deep commitment to involving the entire community – not just people of Finnish descent.

UMD Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Showcased at FinnFest 2008

WE KNOW WE HAVE MISSED PEOPLE! If you are a UMD faculty member, staff member, student or alumna/us presenting at FinnFest, we want to feature you on this page. Contact Cheryl Reitan, so you can be added.

Elaine Ahlgren is a 36-year member and current president of the Aallottaren Tupa in Duluth. She is a UMD grad and is involved in the Minnesota Finnish-American Historical Society Duluth Chapter, Sampo Association, and the Järvenpää Singers.
Fri, July 25, 2:30 pm, "Ladies of Kaleva: A Second Century of Activity" with Elaine Ahlgren
Gooseberry Falls Room 1


Arnold R. Alanen, who attended UMD, teaches landscape history and historic preservation in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Alanen has written extensively about the Finns, mining towns, and agricultural settlements of northeastern Minn. His recent book, Morgan Park: Duluth, U.S. Steel, and the Forging of a Company Town, features the famous Duluth community that once housed steelworkers.
Thur, July 24, 11 am – 1 pm, “History of the Finns in Minnesota & Duluth” with Arnold Alanen
Fri, July 25, 1:30 pm, “Finnish Immigrant Architecture” with Arnold Alanen
Meeting Room 202

Gladys (Mayry) Aukee watched her mother, Impi, pack boxes of food for her family living on the shores of Kyrösjärvi, Finland. Finland's war with Russia was an emotional concern, not only for the welfare of family members, but because of the death of an uncle, a soldier on the eastern front. Gladys, a Suomi College and UMD graduate with a BS and MA in speech pathology, taught for many years.
Fri, July 25, 4:30 pm, "Finnish Relief Efforts from the U.S." with moderator Gladys Aukee
Gooseberry Falls Room 1

Ken Gilbertson is a professor of outdoor and environmental education at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has worked with the Finnish Forest and Park Service (Metsähallitus) over the past 15 years. During Fall 2008, Ken spent three months studying sustainability of nature tourism in Finnish parks. Ken has been teaching outdoor education at UMD for 30 years. He is working with Finnish universities and (Metsähallitus) to develop a sustainability education program for nature-based tourists.

Thur, July 24, 9 am, "Nature and Parks in Finland" with Ken Gilbertson
Meeting Room 203


Jim Johnson’s poetry is closely tied to his roots in Northern Minn. and reveals his concern for the natural environment and the people and other living things of the area. Johnson, who a UMD alumnus, is the author of Finns In Minnesota Midwinter (1986), A Field Guide To Blueberries (1992), and Wolves (1993). He collaborated with the photographer Marlene Wisuri in Dovetailed Corners (1996) and The Coop Label (2005). He has taught in the Duluth public schools and has conducted workshops in the Upper Midwest. Jim is the 2008-2010 Duluth Poet Laureate.
Fri, July 25, 12:30 pm, “Themes/Obsessions in Finnish-American Poetry” with moderator Jim Johnson, Meeting Room 203
Fri, July 25, 1:30 – 3:30 pm, “Poetry Writing” with Jim Johnson, Paulucci Hall
On Thur, July 24, 3:30 – 5:30 pm, and Fri, July 25, 3:30 - 5 pm, both in the French River Room, Jim and his family perform a kantele and poetry performance, “Remembering Finn Hall.”
Sat, 5:30 - 7:30 pm, He will read his poetry at the banquet, “Celebrating 25 years of FinnFest”
Lake Superior Ballroom J&K

Michael Linn is professor of linguistics at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Mike has a special interest in the language of Finnish immigrants and how it changes over time because of his family. His immigrant Finnish grandfather worked in the underground mines in Idaho and Montana and Mike worked as a lumberjack with Finns in Montana. Since 1980, Mike has been studying the language of Northern Minn. with a special interest in the English of the Finns. He has done research at Joensuu University, taught at Tampere University, and been a Fulbright Lecturer at Petrozavodsk State University.
Sat, July 26, 11 am, "Evolution of Finnish and English in Northern Minnesota" with Pekka Hirvonen and Mike Linn
Lake Superior Ballroom L

Ginny Maki, Duluth, MN, graduated with a BFA from the University of Minnesota in 2008. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose aim is to explore the relationships between individuals and their environment. Her current series of oil paintings depicts her three living grandparents and will serve as lasting documents of her grandparents’ character..
Sat, July 26, 10 am, "Naturally Finnish/Luonnollisesti Suomalainen” artist showcase.
Lake Superior Ballroom O

UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin is featured on a panel of women leaders along with the President of Finland Tarja Halonen, former Ambassador to Finland Marilyn Ware; FinnFest USA President and Finnish Studies Researcher K. Marianne Wargelin; Lake Superior College Dean Hanna Erpestad; and three-time Minnesota Legislator Arlene Lehto. This panel will consider the influence of Finland as they explore women’s leadership styles, women mentors and role models, challenges and opportunities for women leaders, the nature and importance of female relationships, and the roles women play in Finland and the USA. .
Sat, 10 am, “Panel of Women Leaders”

Jerry Niemi, a UMD professor, will be leading a bird watching tour in the Western Lake Superior area. Jerry is a native Duluthian who attended Duluth Central High School, received his bachelor's and master's degrees from UMD, and his Ph.D. from Florida State University. He was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Helsinki in 1981. He has hosted six Finnish ornithologists at UMD and has visited Finland for research on birds and forests. Jerry has worked at UMD for over 20 years directing research, teaching ornithology and conservation biology. He has written over 200 articles, received more than $18 million in research funding and was named Outstanding Scientist in the Great Lakes for 2006-2007 by the International Joint Commission.
Sun, July 27, 7-9 am, Birding with a Finn" with Ornithologist Jerry Niemi
Minnesota Point, Free. Contact for all details

Beatrice Ojakangas grew up on a farm near Floodwood, Minn., and graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her first cookbook, The Finnish Cookbook (researched when she lived in Finland), was published in 1964 and is still in print. After writing The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, Beatrice received a James Beard Foundation Award, the highest industry honor awarded to a culinary professional. She has written over 25 cookbooks and writes a regular magazine column.
Fri, July 25, 2:30 pm, "Fusion, Confusion and Finnish Food" with Beatrice Ojakangas
Meeting Room 203
Sat, July 26, 9 am, "Viili-Real Finnish Culture" with Beatrice Ojakangas
Gooseberry Falls Room 2


Richard Ojakangas is University of Minnesota Duluth Professor Emeritus, recently retired from the Department of Geological Sciences. He has published dozens of articles and several books.
Thur, 1 pm, “Was North America Once Part of Finland?” with Richard Ojakangas
Gooseberry Falls Room 3
Fri, July 25, 1:30 pm, "The Rocks of Finland: Vanha, Varied and Valuable!" with Richard Ojakangas
Gooseberry Falls Room 3

Jim Pellman, artist and local historian, born in Superior, Wisconsin, is a UMD graduate. He has visited Finland and owns Finnworks in Maple, Wisc. He is a painter and sculptor, and is author of Faithful, Finn, and Free (Uskollinen, Suomalainen. Vapaa, 2000). He edited Wisconsin Far Northwest (2004), is currently writing The Discovery of Maple, and is a founder of Old-Brule Heritage Society which owns the Davidson Windmill. The Davidson Windmill, in the town of Lakeside, Wisc., was designed and built by homesteader, Jacob (Tapola) Davidson of Lappajärvi, Vaasanlääni, Finland, with help of family and neighbors. The mill successfully served immigrant farmers from the Finnish Ostro-bothnian region. The mill stands as a tribute to Finnish ingenuity, creativeness, craftsmanship, love of freedom, land, and neighbor, and sisu.
Thur, July 24, 3 pm, "Davidson Windmill" with Jim Pellman
Gooseberry Falls Room 2

Alexis Pogorelskin, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is published widely in Russian intellectual history, especially on the topic of political opposition to Stalin. She is the editor of the NEP Journal, Soviet History 1921-1928, and was guest editor of the Journal of Finnish Studies volume devoted to Karalian Fever. The film Pogorelskin is producing, Show Me the Way to Go Home, is a documentary that presents a full accounting and historical background of the recruitment and experiences of those in the Finnish-American community who went to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s.
Sat, July 26, 1 pm, "Karelian Fever" with Richard Hudelson and Alexis Pogorelskin
Gooseberry Falls Room 2
Sun, July 27, 11 am, “A Documentary on Karelian Fever: A Work in Progress” with Alexis Pogorelskin
Meeting Room 202

Arnie Ranta was born and raised on the Iron Range in Markham, Minn. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Arnie worked in the construction field for twenty years before a serious snowmobile accident changed his life. He was able to turn his two life passions (snowmobiles and car racing) into viable business models. His personal struggles caused his life to spiral downward and then back up again. Arnie's recovery from alcoholism has allowed him to not only find success in the business world, but give back to areas in his life he previously left unfinished.
Thur, July 24, 10 am, "Race to the Finnish Line" with Arnie Ranta
Meeting Room 204-205

Ira "Mimmu" Salmela worked with the UMD women's hockey team from 1999-2006, in which they captured three NCAA National Championships. As an assistant coach in 2003-2006, she was responsible for recruiting in the U.S. and Europe. Prior to that, Salmela was the team's media and video coordinator. The Bulldogs had 11 Finnish players, many of whom Salmela helped recruit.
Thur, July 24, 12 pm, "UMD Women's Hockey Team and its Finnish Connection" with Ira "Mimmu" Salmela
Gooseberry Falls Room 2

Larry Saukko is the dean of Salolampi, the Finnish Language Village, where he has been on staff for 32 years. He is also the dean of Waldsee, the German Language Village for Village Weekend Programs. Saukko graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in foreign language education, specializing in German and French. He has worked on a master's degree in curriculum development. He taught high school German and English, taught Finnish in community education and community college programs, and served as business administrator of Concordia College's Institute of German Studies.
Thur, July 24, 2 pm, "Survival Finnish" Meeting Room 202
Sat, July 26, 3 pm, "Survival Finnish", Gooseberry Falls Room 1


Margaret Olson Webster is a graduate of University of Minnesota Duluth and has taught high school, college art and home economics for nearly three decades. Several of her books on Finnish culture have been nominated for book awards and her plays have been performed widely. She received the Hubert Humphrey award for her work in community art and recently published Life Times Six, intimate glimpses into the joys and struggles of six generations of Northland immigrants.
Thur, July 24, 4 pm, "History as Inspiration: a Writers' Panel" with moderator Beth Virtanen
Gooseberry Falls Room 2
Fri, July 25, 11:30 am, "Kalevala Today" with Margaret Olson Webster
Meeting Room 202
Webster also performs, Heroes in Action, a humorous and action-packed play which imparts the meaning of the Kalevala in today’s terms.
Wed, July 23, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Heroes in Action, Lake Superior Ballroom L
Sat, July 26, 8 pm, Heroes in Action, Lake Superior Ballroom L

FinnFest 2008 Organizers with UMD Connections

Jeanne Doty, FinnFest 2008 Co-Chair. UMD Music Department Head, performer in Third Generation, UMD Alumna
Diane Fay Skomars, FinnFest 2008 Co-Chair, UMD Office of Development, UMD Alumna
Beatrice Ojakangas, FinnFest 2008 Honorary Co-Chair, UMD Alumna
Loretta Suliin Busch, FinnFest Music Chair, performer in the Järvenpää Choir, UMD Alumna
Olli Rahkola, Fund Raising Chair, UMD Alumnus
Eira Bridges, Food Committee Chair, Former UMD Registrar Staff
Patty Salo Downs, FinnFest Ceremonies Chair, UMD Alumna
Susan Maki, FinnFest Tours and Transportation Chair, UMD Alumna
George Himango, Finnish Anishinaabe Connection Chair, UMD Alumnus
Verna Richardson, FinnFest Registration Chair, UMD Kirby Student Center
Ira Salmela, FinnFest Publicity Chair, UMD Public Relations Assistant

FinnFest 2008 Coordinators with UMD Connections
Alison Aune, FinnFest Artistic Projects Coordinator, UMD Faculty
Sheila Autio, FinnFest FinnFest Souvenir Program Book Coordinator, UMD Staff
Christine Ebert, FinnFest DECC Liaison Assistant, UMD Staff
Lisa Fitzpatrick, UMD Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab
Brett Groehler, FinnFest Photographer, UMD Photographer
Kit Hautamaki, FinnFest DECC Chair, UMD Staff
Geri Kangas, FinnFest Fashion Show Coordinator, Former UMD Staff
Marion Syrjämäki-Kuchta, FinnFest Blue and White Flower Project assistant, UMD Staff
Patricia Maus, FinnFest UMD Library Display Coordinator, UMD Library Staff
Ken Moran, Official FinnFest Photographer, Former UMD Photographer
Dave Myers, FinnFest Web site Consultant, UMD Student
Kathy Neff, FinnFest Minnesota Orchestra Coordinator, UMD Staff
Cheryl Reitan, FinnFest FinnFest Souvenir Program Editor/Designer, UMD Staff
Neale Roth, FinnFest Film Coordinator, Former UMD Staff
Angel and Andy Sauer, FinnFest Design Team, Deginers of the FinnFest 2008, UMD Alumni
Don Schraufnagel, FinnFest Sound Consultant, UMD Staff

WE KNOW WE HAVE MISSED PEOPLE! If you are a UMD faculty member, staff member, student or alumna/us presenting at FinnFest, we want to feature you on this page. Contact Cheryl Reitan, so you can be added.


FinnFest 2008
Welcomes Everyone

FinnFest 2008, themed “Sharing the Spirit of Finland,” will run July 23-27, 2008, at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) and other locations around town -- including some at UMD. It’s the first FinnFest in Duluth since 1992, when UMD hosted the festival.


Opening Ceremony
Wednesday July 23, 7 pm, DECC Auditorium, doors open at 6 pm. A joyous celebration of music, dance, poetry – no charge or ticket required

Tara Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland
Honorary Degree Ceremony: Friday July 25, 10 am, DECC Arena. Pick up a free ticket at the FinnFest Registration Desk, DECC; or at UMD Kirby Desk

Maestro Osmo Vänskä & the Minnesota Orchestra
Friday July 25, 7:30 pm. DECC Auditorium. $35.00, open seating, doors open at 6:30 pm
Tickets online, Electric Fetus downtown, FinnFest Registration Desk, at the door or UMD Kirby desk

Fashion Show and Luncheon at UMD
Saturday July 26, 12 noon, Kirby Student Center Ballroom. European style luncheon and contemporary Scandinavian fashions $30.00, advance tickets online; or UMD Kirby desk: deadline July 15.

Tori (Market Place)
The market features150 booths with art, jewelry, FinnFest souvenirs, other specialty items for sale, plus music! $5 entry, or registration badge, or Day Pass

AND MORE: over 300 lectures, dances, concerts, art, tours, exhibitions, Finnish food, reindeer, films, music, bird-watching with a Finn, and more!

General festival information is available at

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830


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