As its mission statement mandates, FinnFest USA has always chosen festival sites for their ability to expand knowledge of Finland and Finnish America. In the early years, sites were limited to communities with large contemporary Finnish American populations and easily visible components of Finnish American history. Later, when sites didn’t seem so obviously connected to the mandate, some began to question the choice, asking “what does this site have to do with Finnish America?”, for example, before Tucson in 2012 and Buffalo, NY in 2015. Finding out was part of the joy of the annual festival. An answer always existed.
These less obvious sites enabled attendees to gain new insight or deepen their knowledge about Finland and Finnish America; the sites also resurrected and make visible aspects that had been forgotten. In Tucson, FinnFest attendees learned about Alvar Wilska, the acclaimed Finnish physicist who had taught at the University of Arizona. That year’s festival’s lectures and field trip also permitted attendees to learn about the notorious 1917 “Bisbee deportation,” a black spot in US history, a time when 900+ miners, including 76 Finns, were herded into boxcars and abandoned in a New Mexican desert.
Over the history of FinnFest USA, many people have helped to define a paradigm. During the day, attendees have many continuing education opportunities. The evenings are filled with concerts, theatre, films, and social dances. In any year, the festival may specifically include: