Northern Minnesota is a place steeped in history of the people who have moved here and established communities. However, there are a number of people who stand out for their unique dedication to their heritage. The Finland community is located northeast of the River Deer, and is home to many descendants of Finnish settlers. This summer, the unique community is celebrating its centenary. The festival will be held on 12 and 13 August, and they are interested and welcome for anyone who wants to know more about Finnish history.
One hundred years ago, Finland began when several men bought land from the Deer River to the northeast from Finnish brokers. These men brought their families to the area and began life in an area that was otherwise largely uninhabited. Families built cottages and created their lives in this new area. They called it Finnish, which means Finland. The original Finns enchanted the area because it reminded them of their homeland.
Finland is special among the communities of northern Minnesota because it was not originally built around industry. Although many cities grew alongside the mining or logging industry, Finland was founded by Finnish immigrants who wanted land for their families and want to be satisfied, explained Oliver Juntunen, who has lived in Finland all his life.
“It was a place with everything we needed,” said Robert Anttila from Finland. – They had lakes, it was a really big deal. They got to fish, and they had deer to eat. “
Over the years, the Finland community flourished as the original families grew and more and more people came to the area. People worked and played together. Oliver Juntunen remembers how many traveled from cottage to cottage and fetched firewood for each family for the winter. This is an example of how the community took care of each other and how everything was a group activity.
When they were not at work, they relaxed together. Before the days of the phone, the neighbors just stopped and socialized.
“There was kinship between everyone,” Oliver Juntunen explained.
Locals recalled how awful the roads were years ago and how difficult it was to travel, especially in bad weather. Darlene Ford remembers how they had planned spring school “mud vacations,” almost like planned snow days. Everyone knew the roads would be too muddy for a school trip, so the kids got a vacation.
It was also common to go to the sauna after a long day at work. A strong Finnish tradition, the sauna was and still is important for Finns.
“It was an event,” said Finnish Darlene Ford. “Socialization is as important as the bath.”
He remembers how, after the sauna, close friends gathered for coffee and a party. It is a Finnish tradition that has survived to this day. The sauna is still an important part of many Finns’ lives.
Although Finns are committed to their Finnish heritage and traditions, they have always been proud Americans. According to Norman Ford, who came to the area as a teenager, almost everyone who came to Finland in the beginning took a step to get citizens right away. Although they liked their culture, they were proud to be American.
“This community has always strived to be an active part of the region,” Norman Ford explained.
He explained that Finland has always participated in provincial affairs and has supported accession to the surrounding areas. Finland has been one of the best police officers in the region for years. They are a niche community that simultaneously participates in the outside world.
One hundred years later, the Finnish community is still here. Although the Finland community still has many direct descendants for the founding members, many different people live there. Many new families have moved there because of the beautiful lake views and hunting. Most of the new people started arriving after the Second World War, explained Dale Juntunen from Finland. The surrounding community has welcomed these new families.
After this time, many of the original families are still represented. Although many children have moved away, they still own land in Finland to return. Darlene and Norman Ford lived in Finland as children and moved away due to their careers to retire. That’s exactly what they did, and many others have done or plan to do the same. Norman Ford explained that while many young people leave to look for other opportunities, Finland is often their home to which they plan to return.
“It’s a wider community than you sometimes think,” Norman Ford said.
Today, those living in Finland and those with connections to community members across the country will celebrate Finland’s centenary next weekend. Oliver Juntunen has cousins from Finland who are planning to participate.
From 6pm on Friday, a chicken and ham dinner hosted by Shirley Nixon at Deer River Township Hall. After dinner, refreshments are served. The meal costs $ 15 for adults and $ 10 for children under t10.
Saturday is the most important celebration of the Finnish community. All celebrations will be held on that day next to the Church of Finland. Coffee and cardamom bread are served from 9-10.
Later, the community-honoring event will feature several speakers, including James Johnson, Honorary Consul of Northern Minnesota Finland, Senator Tom Saxhaug, Representative Tom Anzelc, County Veterans Service Officer Hugh Quinn, and County Sheriff Victor Williams. The first speaker will begin at 10 a.m.
After the speakers, there will be a very special moment in the history of the Finnish community. The intersection of Highway 38 and County Road 48 is dedicated to the Finnish PFC Eugene Anttila, who died in service during World War II. His nephew Robert Anttila speaks at the inauguration as well as Hugh Quinn. The ceremony will be held at 11:30 p.m.
Afterwards, participants enjoyed music by the Second Wind Harmonica Band, The Jammers and The Casey Aro Band.
On both days, Finland Centennial items are on sale, such as party shirts, bumper stickers and much more. The Finland Centennial Book, a collection of 100 years of history, is also on sale.
The members of the Finland community are celebrating their centenary.
“We want to remember our ancestors who came here,” said Oliver Juntunen. “It’s amazing to think how small the community was and how big it grew.” He hopes the older members who moved can see what the community has become.
“It’s a pleasure to be a part of this close-knit community,” Norman Ford said.
“I am very proud of my Finnish heritage,” added Darlene Ford. “It’s important to celebrate that they came, and we’re still here.”