by Daniel Truckey, Vice-President, FinnFest USA
Since I joined the FinnFest board in 2012, I’ve had some amazing experiences, at FinnFest and also at our board meetings in such wonderful places as Minneapolis, Santa Fe, and Seattle. But FinnFest, itself, is what it is all about and I’d like to tell you about the most meaningful moments over the past several years.
In 2013, FinnFest was held in the Copper Country of the Upper Peninsula, which meant so much to me, having grown up (and am living again) in the U.P. It was at that very festival that I had the honor of introducing Jane Piirto-Navarre, a poet from Ishpeming and a noted education expert, during a presentation about her writing. It was an honor not just because of her work but because she is my first cousin once removed (my father’s first cousin). It has been through FinnFest and my work on the board that I’ve developed a closer relationship with Jane, who is several years older than me. We share a great bond with not only our Finnish heritage but also our love of writing.
FinnFest is famous for these types of experiences: connecting with old friends and lost family members, distant relations from Finland and rubbing shoulders with dignitaries that one could never imagine meeting in real life. At the same festival, I was invited to a banquet dinner with the Finnish Secretary of State. What a great opportunity not only to meet these officials from Finland but to also meet leaders in the Finnish-American and expatriate communities.
There have also been some powerful emotional memories that I’ll never forget. At the 2008 FinnFest in Duluth, the opening ceremonies in the sold-out auditorium began with dozens of young fiddle players all playing a Finnish folk song in unison. It was followed by three rousing sing-alongs of “The Star Spangled Banner,” “O Canada,” and “Maamme” (representing the three countries that have the strongest connections to my family). It is rare for me to shed a tear in even the most emotional times but there was not a dry eye in the house, including myself. It was one of those moments that helped to define what it meant to be a Finnish-American, and I’m so proud to have been involved with the festival for all of these years since.