July 24 – 28, 2024

The story of Finnish Utopian communities: lecture and video.

Teuvo Peltoniemi, Licentiate of Social Sciences, is a Finnish researcher and science journalist specializing in Nordic migration. He has worked in universities, radio, TV, and print media, and published 18 books. In 2007, he was honored with the “State of Finland Award for Life Work on Public Information.”

This event is held at First Lutheran Church in Duluth.

Pulla Baking is central to Finnish American cuisine Come to learn more about pulla. If you bake pulla, come with your entry in this 2024 Pulla-baking contest. Listen and watch as Tom Dubois, Hanna Snellman and Beatrice Ojakangas talk about the pulla entries. Watch Beatrice Ojakangas demonstrate her own pulla-baking artistry. (Bea may have a pulla-baking surprise to share at this event.) Everyone is welcome to this free and open event.

The Kisarit Finnish-American Folkdancers will lead a dance workshop. Here is your chance to come and enjoy learning the basic steps of the Finnish waltz, jenkka(schottish), humppa, mazurka while listening to live music in a relaxed, fun setting. No previous dance experience or partners needed. Comfortable leather-soled shoes are recommended. Come and join us!

Kisarit Finnish-American Folk Dancers were organized in 1972 to preserve and present Finnish folk music and dance. Based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, the volunteer members of the group practice weekly with choreographed dances and traditional folk dances from all parts of Finland. Past members of the group have trained and studied with well-known Finnish and Scandinavian folk dance instructors, enabling Kisarit to teach folk dances from every region of Finland as well as other Scandinavian countries. The Kisarit dancers have delighted audiences throughout the United States, Canada and Finland with their performances. In 2022, the Kisarit Finnish-American FolkDancers celebrated 50 years of continuing to bring Finnish dance performances, music and culture for others to enjoy and experience.

In the 1970s, two Black American basketball players introduced multiculturalism to Finland, and their sons went on to launch a battle for equality.

Lynette Reini-Grandell and Loren NIemi are active, contemporary writers, both poets, each with several books of published poetry. They will read from their work and talk about their poems.

Presenter Bios:
Lynette Reini-Grandell is the author of Wild Things: A Trans Glam Punk Rock Love Story, (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2023) and the poetry collections Wild Verge (Holy Cow! Press, 2018); Approaching the Gate (Holy Cow! Press, 2014), winner of the 2015 Northeastern Minnesota book award for poetry. She teaches English and creative writing at Normandale Community College and the Loft and has received support for her work from the Finlandia Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. A multidisciplinary artist, she performs at spoken word venues with the Bosso Poetry Company and the jazz collective, Sonoglyph, and her poetry is part of a permanent installation at the Carlton Arms Art Hotel in Manhattan. Her work is often inspired by Finnish folk culture and song, and she frequently collaborates with Nordic Roots artists in multimedia performances.

Loren Niemi is a Minnesota based poet, author and innovative storyteller whose work includes a 2020 Midwest Book Award winning short story collection, “What Haunts Us”, a poetic memoir “A Breviary for the Lost” and “Circus Rex” a novel of romance, catastrophe and offbeat humor. Over the last 45 years Loren has shared poems and stories in urban and rural communities, on fringe festival and cabaret stages, and in over 200 poetry and story slams. He was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s lifetime achievement award in 2016 and founded the American School of Storytelling in 2020.

Finnish Rag Rugs
Lorri and Kara Oikarainen will display examples of their textile artistry and talk about how the rugs are designed and made. They will explain the role thrift and recycling play in the decisions they make. They will illustrate how rag strips are made and become part of the weaving. They will talk about the artistic challenges: creating patterns, selecting colors and color combinations that become beautiful rugs.

Swedish American Rug Weaving
Carole Spelic will display examples of her rug weaving work. She will talk with FinnFest attendees who stop at her booth, describing how she made the decisions that became the rugs, discussing the process of weaving, sharing stories about the rugs.

Wood carving
Taylor Johnson: Woodworking is woven deeply into the cultural fabric of Nordic America. Taylor Johnson is a wood carver who specializes in acanthus carving, an art form deeply rooted in this particular Nordic artform. At his tori booth, Johnson will demonstrate and talk about his wood carving and present examples of his work : kubbestols, trunks, benches, boxes, shelves, mirrors, and delicately carved bowls—all infused with the spirit of Nordic heritage.

Taylor Johnson’s lineage traces back to the Scandinavian heartlands, where woodworking is woven into the cultural fabric. Raised on a Wisconsin farm, Taylor inherited his father’s passion for carpentry. His father, Monroe Johnson, excelled in acanthus carving—an art form deeply rooted in Nordic tradition. Together, father and son embarked on a transformative journey to Norway. Amidst ancient churches and historic buildings, they marveled at intricate woodcarvings, drawing inspiration from legends like Rolf Taraldest and Johan Amrud. Taylor’s education extended beyond family ties. He learned from gold medal award winners, honing his craft over three decades. Now retired, Taylor devotes his days to acanthus carving—a timeless expression of cultural pride. As the festival celebrates Nordic roots and the art of learning, Taylor’s legacy stands tall—a testament to craftsmanship, tradition, and the enduring allure of acanthus motifs.

Ojibwe Arts
Wayne Valliere will show his artwork: birchbark baskets, beadwork, quillwork. He will come with photographs of his masterwork of other Ojibwe art forms: birchbark canoes, lodges, and hunting tools. He will talk with tori attendees about Ojibwe culture. Mino-Giizhig (Wayne Valliere) is an Ojibwe artist best known for his birch bark canoe building; however he specializes in a wide array of traditional arts, including beadwork, quillwork, basketry, lodges and hunting tools. He is also an accomplished singer and storyteller. He works as a language and culture teacher at the Lac du Flambeau Public School. From Waaswaaganag (Lac du Flambeau) he works with apprentices and students to keep the traditional arts alive and thriving. Among other awards and recognitions, he is a 2020 National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Awardee.

Derek Brabender
Woodwork, including wood carving, continues to be an artform practiced by Nordic Americans. Wood carvers include people who do “bowl turning” and “spoon carving.” Alan Anderson presents this work in his booth. He will show examples and discuss his craft with people who stop to look at his booth.

Alan Anderson will display his woodwork , both furniture and bowl turning. He will help people who stop by to see his meticulous attention to construction details, the selection of the wood and the matching of grain and color. He will share how his work borrows from a number of traditions. Most importantly, his work is deeply imbedded in the Scandinavian folk art tradition. All four of his grandparents came from Sweden, and my paternal grandfather was a master woodcarver who carved the original carvings that would be reproduced in a furniture factory in Rockford, Illinois. Anderson is privileged to use some of his grandfather’s tools in his own carvings. He will share his insights into way Nordic people have used wood in countless functional ways and developed its own aesthetic of design and ornamentation. In these old traditional Scandinavian folk art designs, he sees the roots of modern Scandinavian design and considers that the two traditions seem to flow together seamlessly.

These artists’ participation at FinnFest is supported and organized by the Nordic Folklife Project/Center for the Study of Upper Midwest Cultures, University of Wisconsin–Madison.