With the dawning of January 1, 2011, the Finnish Heritage Museum starts its ninth year of operation. Born with the idea that the Finnish Heritage should be preserved for future generations, the museum has made its presence known. It has become a physical "home" for many of our local Finns who stop by religiously to have their Saturday morning cup of coffee and the ever popular coffee bread called nisu. The coffee and nisu is only the sweet pretext, because what comes next is the inevitable, "remember that?" conversations which have been affectionately called "my history lesson for today" by one member.
The Museum has had many physical displays including the popular "Why they came, and why they stayed." This question has been asked many times by visitors to the museum. The Museum has done its best to answer that by providing artifacts and stories to illustrate why those Finnish immigrants decided to come to the USA, and more specifically, Fairport Harbor, Ohio. A wonderful display of prominent Finnish families and their stories are shown in picture documents in the gallery. Many recognizable names appear there. Interestingly enough, when you mention a Finnish name, it can many times be indelibly linked to the proud heritage of Fairport Harbor. With that in mind, the museum is certainly fulfilling its mission.
We have had visitors from all over the globe and the United States. Many are making Fairport Harbor a destination, and no wonder...we have the Finnish Museum, the Lighthouse, the Marine Museum, the Slovenian Club, the Hungarian Culture Club, the Finnish Monument, the beach, and great fishing in Lake Erie. The Fairport Harbor Tourist board is also working hard to present programs to entertain and educate people.
More than that local presence, the museum has made an international presence with a web site in operation since 2004. The website has continuously been updated with new items and events and programs complete with pictures and well written stories. These stories are written as news by our Ace reporter, Elaine Lillback, or they are presented as a researched document on a given subject by the presenter. Recently at the Pikkujoulu gathering, all of the last two year's worth of presenters were each given a certificate expressing gratitude for each ones program.
This year's programs are off to a rousing start with February's cross country show called "The Skiing Finns of Fairport," March's offering will bring "Tales of Fairport, the Bootleg Years," and in April, our neighbors from Ashtabula will be discussed in "The Finns of Ashtabula." All of our programs have a relevance to the Finnish Culture in one form or another. Additionally, the home town of Fairport, which was heavily flavored with Finns, Hungarians, and Slovenians also provides a wonderful cultural canvas upon which to tell stories. Many of the programs like the great high school athletes presentation, featured of course Finns who excelled in football, basketball, and baseball.Everyone feels a kinship to those kinds of programs because they are about fellow Finns. All of the programs are now complete,thanks to our new program chairperson, Linda McAdams and her committee of Bob and Janet Noponen, Anne Pohto, John Ollila & Dick Lehtinen. For a complete listing of programs, click here or go to the Events page.
The Events committee will be planning for a summer program and a fall "Speakeasy" may again be in the future. That event was wonderfully attended with everyone dressed in 1920's costume with even an appearance by Mayor Amy Kaukonen and the Chief of Police who "arrested" the bootleggers and warehouse manager. The summer event last known as Finn Fun Fest featured speakers, music, ethnic food, and tours of the museum and was well attended.
The Gift Shoppe under the direction of chairperson Sue Troutman and her committee of Milly Laituri, Emily Mummey, Donna Lesiacsek, Maria Nelson, and Pat Spivak, are presently restocking the shop after the holidays. New Iitala glassware and other unique items will be ready to purchase on your visit. The Finnish jewelry artist Sanna Taimenmies has agreed to provide new jewelry from her collection called "The Nature of Finland." These items will be exclusive to the Museum and will not be offered for sale elsewhere. They are reasonably priced. Look for more items as the season develops.
The Display committee comprised of Sue Jokela, Larry LaBounty, and Janine LaBounty, have been organizing the many items that have been donated or bequeathed to us for display and safekeeping. The newest display coincides with the February presentation "The Skiing Finns of Fairport" while other displays continue to be developed in the main gallery.
Don't be surprised if you are contacted by a member of the Membership committee, Ailiin Andrews, John and Millie Laituri, Pat Spivak, Jean Stevens, Sue Troutman, or our enthusiastic chairperson Elaine Holson Kangas leading the charge. She has effectively re-organized our memberships lists into highly useable and up to date data. So if you have not rejoined our ranks, please do so. Click here. (By the way, our lists are confidential and cannot be shared with anyone or any group, and you can check the "do not publish" option.)
The Genealogy Committee (whose members are affectionately called "Genies") complete with our logo of a brass wishing lamp, have enthusiastically jumped into the new projects we have started. One is appropriately labeled "Finnish Neighborhood Parlor Game" in which each of our members draws a map of his neighborhood while he was growing up in Fairport and names all the Finnish people who lived in the surrounding neighborhood, complete with house numbers. Eventually, this project will also be data based into a file where we can search any house number on any Fairport street and come up with the names who lived there at one time.
The second genealogy project has members choosing an "original Fairport Finn" which is a name from the original Finnish settlers who decided to build a house, get married, have children, and make a life for themselves and families in Fairport. This group came in the years 1880 to 1890. This roughly coincides with the Russians deciding that Finnish men could be drafted, conscripted, or pressed into military service for Russia. Many men, rather than serve the Russians, escaped with a new life in America in mind. Of course, the American Dream played a part in that exodus from Finland to the USA. This work will eventually be published with by-lines of the researchers.
Remember, if you have any nominations for the FHM Hall of Fame Committee please remit them as soon as possible. The deadline for this year's group is October 30th. click here to go to Hall of Fame page. The form is accessible on the bottom of the page.
Our best wishes to the now-forming Hungarian Heritage Association, our great Marine Museum and its lighthouse, and our friends at the Slovenian Club which has been a viable cultural establishment in Fairport Harbor for many years.
Let's have a wonderful 2011 and put our troubles in the past. See you at the Museum.
Lasse Hiltunen, President FHM
© Photo by Lasse Hiltunen