Finnish Center for Celebrating Summer Festival and Concert at Saima Park
FITCHBURG – Fitchburg resident Lorna Sulin has many memories of her childhood spent in Saima Park, which makes the upcoming festival very special for her.
Kesajuhla, a long-standing celebration of the summer solstice, has been observed for many years by the Finnish community with festivities and camaraderie.
This year, the Saima Park Finnish Center will host its 116th Kesajuhla on Sunday, June 19 at the park, located at 67 Scott Road.
“This festival is our premier event of the year, it embraces the warmth of the season, and the members of the Finnish Center couldn’t be happier to welcome the community to our celebration,” said long-time member Lorna Sulin. dates from the Finnish Center at Parc Saïma.
The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. with the Dana M. Sulin Memorial Chess Tournament, hosted by George Mirijanian. Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Alongside the chess tournament, there will be outdoor games for all ages. Navigating a water-carrying obstacle course or playing cornhole, Molkky (Finnish lawn bowling) are just some of the games available.
There will also be a chicken barbecue dinner.
Sulin adds that music is always a big part of the festival, “and this year we’re thrilled to present three different performances.”
Conducted by Dr. Hildur Schilling, the Fitchburg State University Community Orchestra will play from 11 a.m. to noon.
“Among their selections will be a variety of light and upbeat Nordic melodies, as well as a beautiful arrangement of Sibelius’ Finlandia Hymn,” Sulin said.
Led by violinist Christine Anderson, the folk group Oivan Ilo will entertain from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., joined by folk dancers from Revontulet.
“Director Leila Luopa will sometimes invite festival guests to participate, so wear comfortable shoes,” Sulin said.
A special concert featuring Eeppi Ursin, Finlandia Foundation’s 2022 National Performer of the Year, will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. singer-songwriter and pianist.
Sulin urges the community to come and listen to her “stunning voice, amazing piano, and wonderful lyrics,” as described by the New York Songwriters Circle.
Another annual feature at Kesajuhla is the festival’s star performer, and this year longtime Saima member and volunteer Eira Perko (1922-2012) will be honoured.
“A variety of her paintings and crafts, including silver jewelry, quilts, worked leather and painted rocks, will be featured by her daughter and son, Sandra and John Perko,” Sulin said. “Eira worked for many years at Raivaaja Publishing Company and we are happy to honor her this year.”
The Raivaaja Foundation will be on hand to sell Finnish and Finnish-American books at the festival and guests will have chances to win at the raffle table.
The Saima Park Finnish Center Annual Scholarship will be presented by Committee Chairman Eino Kauppi at 1:15 p.m.
The mission of the Saima Park Finnish Center is to preserve and cherish the Finnish culture that was brought to America and to incorporate and adapt it into American culture.
“We hope the Finnish Center in Saima Park will remain a reminder to future generations that a part of Finland is here,” Sulin said. “And Finns who have played a vital role in the history and growth of this region. At the same time, we need to learn about how Finland has changed and developed since our grandparents immigrated to this country.
Sulin encourages families to bring their children and enjoy all that Finnish culture has to offer.
“There is so much darkness during the winter in Finland, so when the summer solstice arrives, it’s a much-loved event that we hope to celebrate for many years to come,” Sulin said.
The BBQ Chicken Dinner, served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with half a chicken, potato salad, cucumber salad, cranberry sauce and bread.
Dinner reservations must be made by Monday, May 30 by emailing [email protected] or leaving a message at 978-407-9690. The meal is $15, payable in cash or by check at the event.
Also on sale will be hot dogs and fries ($5), hot and cold drinks ($2), and Finnish coffee bread and cinnamon rusks ($2 for two or three slices, respectively; or $10 for a loaf of “pulla” and $6 for a pack of “korppu”).
A membership table will be set up for those interested in joining the organization or renewing their membership, which will run until September 30, 2023. Membership is open to all, with an annual fee of $30 for adults 18 and over. Children are included in the adult membership.
“Members have year-round access to the beautiful grounds and trails of Saima Park and receive discounts on language classes and workshops,” Sulin said. “Parents of current members who have been in good standing for a year or more are also eligible to apply for a scholarship.
For more information, visit www.saima-park.org or its Facebook page “Friends of Saima Park”.