HANCOCK — With the weather cooperating much better than last year, a great crowd showed up this past Saturday for Heikinpaiva.
The festivities began with the parade through Hancock, which featured this year’s Hankooki Heikki, Reuben Niemesto, riding on the giant kicksled.
The event brought in people from all parts of the world, including Olli Malinen, who came from Finland to take part in the fun activities like the wife–carrying contest.
“Of course I appreciate people keeping the heritage alive. Some of the traditions are some that we don’t celebrate anymore with the modern society. For us, it’s refreshing to remember our roots by coming here to the Upper Peninsula,” Malinen said.
Inside the Finnish American Heritage Center was the Tori Market, vendors displayed their arts and crafts. And some even had some tasty treats.
Event Coordinator Jim Kurtti said it’s important to get the local youth involved.
“I think the most important way that it has grown is getting young people involved. We have our Kivajat dancers and the young people groups that are participating. We have some younger volunteers and it just shows us that the culture is staying alive,” Kurtti said.
The polar bear dive also took place, giving an opportunity for many people to scratch it off their bucket list. And people come from all over the country to participate.
“It was really cold. And then when you got out, it was actually a lot warmer than you think. You got out there and you felt alright. But it was nice and fun,” Cheboygan native Max Pletcher said.
“When I was waiting in line, I was just anticipating the cold and when I hopped in, it happened,” said Jacob Robinson of Owosso.
“I was the first one to go so I didn’t have much time to think. When you’re in there, you don’t really think about the cold, you just want to get out. At least that’s not too bad,” Michael Drogowski, also of Cheboygan, said.