Grasshoppers beware

Caitlin Reeves, the events and operation manager with the Finlandia Club, tempts the St. Urho’s Day grasshopper with grapes on Bay Street on Tuesday afternoon.

Thirty-four-years on and the St. Urho tradition is still going strong with three days of events planned for this year’s celebration.

Action for the Finnish community’s answer to St. Patrick’s Day kicks into high gear on Friday evening with a performance by Conga Se Menne. The self-described “Finnish reggae and other sauna beats” band that hail from Marquette, Mich. Doors open at the Finlandia Hall at 7 p.m. with the band starting at 9 p.m., tickets for this show are $25 in advance or $30 at the door and are selling quickly.

On Saturday at noon, Finns and Finns at heart are invited to wear green and purple for a brief parade around the Algoma and Bay business district. The procession includes St. Urho himself and the dreaded grasshopper.

The legend of St. Urho is a character that was created in mid-1950s in northern Minnesota as fun counterpart to St. Patrick. St. Urho is said to have chased the grasshoppers out of Finland which saved the grape crop in Finland. (Much like St. Patrick was said to have driven the snakes from Ireland.)

Several communities mark St. Urho’s day in Minnesota, but St. Urho is said to have little if any recognition in Finland.

Caitlin Reeves, the events and operation manager with the Finlandia Club, attributes the tradition to the large Finnish community in the city.

“Through the years this has been organized by different groups that are involved in the Finlandia Association and the ladies that organized it now all have family roots in the celebration,” said Reeves. “It’s just a passion from the Finnish community. . . . It’s our day of the year for Finnish people to celebrate their heritage.”

After the parade on Saturday the public is invited to the Finlandia Hall for the variety show with local musicians and cultural performers from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. From 7 to 8 p.m., people can learn to dance with the Kikuriit Traditional Dancers. The Pelimanni Orchestra performs from 8 to 11 p.m., with more traditional Finnish dancing and music on tap for the evening.

On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Mrs. Urho’s Craft Market and Mr. Urho’s rummage sale is planned, with free admission to the Finlandia Hall.

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