by Sharon Ojanpa Mackey
Before the last ice age, St Urho came to Finland to save the grape crop. Perhaps the country had a much milder climate than today. No matter. What is important is that the grasshoppers were much bigger than the ones we see now, and they threatened to destroy all the grapes. St. Urho’s loud voice and sharp pitchfork drove all the grasshoppers out of Finland. Today, March 16th is traditionally celebrated as St. Urho’s Day.
The Finnish Heritage Museum’s monthly meeting was held on March 9, 2015, in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. In honor of St. Urho, several people wore green and purple. The evening started out normal enough, with members all enjoying a taste of mojakka before the start of business. A pot of mojakka was made by Anne Pohto, a second pot by Janine LaBounty, and a third one by Dennis Mackey. No one knows what went into these pots, but everyone had at least one cupful.
Then, St. Urho himself appeared, along with his wife, the Grape Princess, although they looked suspiciously like FHM members Jeff and Debbie Werronen. The room grew quiet with an air of anticipation. First, Jeff, I mean St. Urho, gave us a history lesson about his special day. Seems it started sixty-some years ago up in Minnesota, and frogs were the culprits. The frogs somehow changed to grasshoppers, and the rest is history.
Then Debbie, er, the Grape Princess, let us all know that the real power behind the saint was her, his wife, Sinikka, aka the Grape Princess. Sinikka’s poem was read, outlining all that Sinikka had done in order to raise 12 children, keep a cozy home for her family, and do all the things her husband had no time to do, since he was busy chasing grasshoppers.
Yooper native and FHM member, Hal Pelto, then recited the poem, “Ode to Saint Urho” by Gene McCavic and Richard Mattson. No one is sure exactly what was said, as the poem was recited in Hal’s native tongue, authentic Yooper. Nevertheless, the poem was well received, and Hal was rewarded with a round of applause. Good job, Hal!
After St. Urho, the Grape Princess, and Hal had had their say, FHM member John Ollila took over the meeting. He pointed out that St. Urho’s day is not celebrated in Finland! Can you believe this?
To liven things up, John then announced that the tall ship Madeline would be making its way from
Traverse City, Michigan to Fairport Harbor, Ohio in July of this year. It will be the centerpiece of our village’s celebration of Summerfest. John then told the story of Zebulon Tilton and his sailing ship, the Alice Wentworth, which sailed for many years along the Atlantic coast.
To finish off the evening’s entertainment, John sang a sea shanty, encouraging the whole audience,including St. Urho, the Grape Princess, and Hal P., to join in on the chorus. A great way to cap off a very entertaining evening.
Shown are the "Moijakka Maids" who cooked up this festive occasions. L t R Barbara Ollila, Janine LaBounty, Suzanne Jokela, and Ann Pohto. The cake was provided by Suzanne Jokela.
Almost forgot, FHM President Lasse Hiltunen, then called the business meeting to order.
Photos © Bill Lukshaw & FHM, Text © Sharon Ojanpa Mackey 2015