Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter


It all started with a tap on a shoulder, or numerous taps on numerous shoulders. One after another, our St Urho’s Day performers said, “I was just sitting there minding my own business, drinking coffee and eating nisu, when Anne came up and tapped me on the shoulder.” Anne Pohto, of course; and it was time to start preparing for the St. Urho’s Day celebration.

The 2018 dinner, in honor of the saint who drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, and thus saved the grape crop, was held on Monday, March 12, 2018. Coincidentally, the second Monday of each month is the traditional meeting day for the Finnish Heritage Museum (FHM) in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. This March, the meeting had to be moved to Zion Lutheran Church, also in Fairport Harbor, to accommodate the many attendees. Each year our St. Urho’s celebration has attracted more participants than the year before.

The 65 or so attendees were very interested in tasting the four different types of mojakka, and listening to the story of St. Urho. This year crock pots full of mojakka were prepared by Anne Pohto, Dennis Mackey, Raeann Hess, and Carol Vrabel. Bread and butter were provided by Barb Ollila; Suzanne Jokela and Janine LaBounty provided cake for dessert. Most visitors wanted to taste all the different variations to see whose was the tastiest. Thanks to Beverly Harbour, Linda Penttila, Donna Lesiacsek, and Janine LaBounty for making sure everything ran smoothly. David Nelson made a replica of a Finnish costume that was made available for picture-taking.

The evening started with Finnish Heritage Museum (FHM) President Lasse Hiltunen extending a welcome to members and visitors alike. He then introduced Niles Oinonen (shown to the left )Niles who read the “Legend of St. Urho.” Next, Yooper Hal Peltto read “An Ode to St Urho.” Granted it was read halunder protest, Hal thinking that people would be tired of hearing him read the same thing every year. Anne assured him that would not be the case, so Hal read the poem, to great acclaim.(Hal shown on the right)

Next to perform was the Urho Boy Chorale made up of Millie Laituri, Ginny Radcliffe, and the Grape Princess, aka Debbie Werronen. The three ladies tried to sing with straight faces, singing Urho’s ballad to the tune of Jingle Bells, but it was almost impossible, as St. Urho himself had spotted some wayward grasshoppers and was dashing in and out with his pitchfork, doing his best to distract the ladies as they sang.

The Grape Princess and St. Urho then gave a short history lesson about how Urho took all the glory and Sinikka,his wife, was always in the background. choirAs they told the story, it became clear that without Sinikka, Urho could not have become the celebrated saint he is today. She took care of the home front and their 12 children. Surely, she deserves more than a passing reference; she needs to become a part of the feminine revolution going on today.

The original story had poisonous frogs that Urho captured and sent to France, where the people had developed a taste for frogs’ legs. Somehow the frogs changed into grasshoppers to become the modern tale of today. The day before St. Patrick’s Day, March 16, is the designated St. Urho’s Day. Some think this is so the Finns can get a head start on the green beer, but I’m not so sure this is the real reason.urhogroup

At this point in the program came the passing of the pitchfork from Jeff and Debbie Werronen to Nina and Ron Boyett, who promised to take the responsibility as seriously as history deserves. Also introduced to the gathering were Dave and Candy Nelson, who had portrayed St. Urho and the Grape Princess in years past at Zion Church. (left to right: Ron Boyett, Nina Boyett, Debbie Werronen, Jeff Werronen, Candy Nelson, and Dave Nelson.)

Anne then encouraged visitors and FHM members alike to volunteer for programs that will be presented at the museum during the next year. If you will be in the Fairport Harbor area, please drop in. The schedule of events and hours that the museum is open are listed on our website at www.finnishheritagemuseum,org. And don’t worry about being able to communicate with our members. Most speak Finnglish, as well as English. Hope to see you soon.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Jane Hiltunen








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