FinnFest USA 2018 Information and Frequently Asked Questions
What is FinnFest USA?
FinnFest USA is an annual two-to-four-day event, held each year in a different part of the United States. FinnFest’s Articles of Incorporation state that the mission is to create opportunities for the Finnish American Diaspora to meet together and “to broaden and deepen their knowledge of Finland and Finnish American history and culture.” From its beginnings in 1983, FinnFest has actively created a public forum and continuing education series occurring together with a marketplace, concerts, and other festivities. In 2017, FinnFest USA was honored to host President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio’s only visit to the United States outside New York City and Washington DC, becoming, through that visit, their only personal interaction with the Finnish North American Diaspora during Suomi Sata (the Finland 100 year.) As has become its distinguishing characteristic, the 2017 festival appealed to many people beyond the Finnish Diaspora. In other words, President Niinistö and First Lady Haukio also met with America when they came to FinnFest.
How is FinnFest USA organized?
FinnFest USA and its festival organizing arm, FinnFest USA Events, have official status as non-profit corporations in the USA. FinnFest USA also holds the US trademark for the name “FinnFest”. FinnFest USA is governed by a working Board of Directors. The President functions as the Executive Director. Originally, Finnish American communities throughout the USA have bid to host and organize the festival. Since 2014, festivals have been organized by the Board of Directors working with American communities throughout the United States, communities receptive to this public opportunity to feature Finland and Finnish America. Local Finnish American individuals and institutions share the organizing work. FinnFest festivals have twice occurred in Canada. The 2018 festival will occur in Tampere, Finland, engaging, for the first time, with Finland…in Finland.
How does FinnFest USA involve the local community as it organizes the annual festival?
FinnFest USA looks for local institutions and organizations whose goals connect their constituencies to the global community. FinnFest USA’s own mission to connect the United States to Finland and Finland to the United States will find synergy with these local entities. Partnerships then develop, enabling FinnFest to add program that it could not do on its own, programming that engages the much larger local community in one or more parts of FinnFest USA. In 2017, the Suomi Sata year, the FinnFest USA partners included the Minnesota Trade Office, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Economic Club of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota, Vocal Essence (a premier choral group), Global Minnesota, the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Society and the City of Minneapolis’s international relations department. The Nordic Community…the American Swedish Institute, the Danish American Center, and Norway House…collaborated at the level that FinnFest became an all-Nordic weekend.
What are the program themes for 2018?
Each yet, FinnFest USA creates interdisciplinary and global conversations about Finland and Finnish America. These conversations grow out of lectures, panels, tours, music, the visual arts, theatre and a variety of one of a kind pop-up events, all working together to create a discussion between the USA and Finland. This year, for the first time, the location permits FinnFest USA 2018 to offer a program where its attendees will experience first-hand the urban history and contemporary life of Finland.
Finland’s 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the war that exploded within a month of the declaration, and the Finland that has emerged from those experiences in the 21st century will be the theme for Monday and Tuesday. The City of Tampere’s urban landscape, which will include a visit to the Kaleva Cemetery, will provide opportunities to think about Finland from the perspective of 1917/1918 and 1939-44. While Americans generally know very little about Finland’s 1918 and 1930-44 experiences, the Finnish American community was nonetheless part of what happened in Finland, both in the years before and the years after. Focusing attention on Finland’s own history with the “Red” and “White” divisions will begin a new discussion between Finland and the USA.
On Wednesday, the program will turn to migration. Migration to North America affected Finland’s small towns and rural areas in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Migration into Sweden in the 1970’s and 1980’s was equally devastating. The 21st century migration into Finland’s large urban areas continues to hurt. These days, in response to this migration, the Finnish government mandates consolidations or elimination of various social services. As a result of such mandates, the survival of the culture nurtured in these communities has become a source of concern. FinnFest attendees will appreciate gaining this additional perspective into the migration topic, not the least because of the parallels occurring right now in Finnish American communities. This migration topic’s synergy between Finland and Finnish America will encourage the development of future program ideas around the topic of community.
Wednesday’s program will also look at migration from the perspectives of people. First, a panel will explore Finland’s contemporary experience with migration and refugees. Second, a theatre production will add a visceral element, a play performed by Theatre Fiasko of Joensuu, Finland. “Lukusali” is a play which looks at migrant men who went to America to work and for various reasons never returned. Now aged, they sit in the reading room of the public library. The play resonates with the experiences which many immigrants and refugees have had and continue to have today.
The Wednesday migration topic outlines another theme the Finnish Diaspora and Finland can continue to share. Next year, when FinnFest will occur in southeast Michigan, this theme can consider the experiences of the many small towns and rural areas in Michigan with Finnish connections. Many residents felt forced to leave their Finnish communities for life in the greater metro region of Detroit. This Finnish American narrative reoccurs in many other historically Finnish American regions: New England, the Great Lake States, the Prairies, and the Pacific Northwest. This greater discourse will begin in 2018 in Finland. June 27th will create a preliminary encounter of the subject.
The 2018 festival will create a conversation between FinnFest USA and Finland that will have impact on the 2019 program scheduled for Detroit and a potential return to Finland in 2020. Through the 2018 festival, FinnFest is working to create new networks and themes that can carry through into the future.
How is FinnFest USA financed?
Festivals are funded largely by festival attendees’ registration fees bolstered by in-kind support, donors, and grants. Very little paid employment is involved, meaning that volunteers, led by the FinnFest USA board members themselves, create the festivals. Registration fees can be the full event or for one-day only. Special low rates for students and children and opportunities to volunteer in lieu of registration fees make the festival affordable to families and people with limited incomes. All events are open to all, and some events, with donor support, are both free and open. Special events like concerts, meals, tours, and receptions may have additional fees, with registrants getting discounts. In 2017, portions of the program were part of the budgets of local organizations who had created programming that they shared with FinnFest. In addition, a major donor, Uponor, a Finnish company whose North American headquarters are in Minnesota, became a major donor to FinnFest’s own programming expenses.
Who attends FinnFest USA festivals?
Attendees, predominantly, are Americans from across the United States, also Canadians as well as Finns who travel from Finland to attend. The North American attendees are most often people who have a connection to Finland: 1. Members of the Finnish North American Diaspora, either descendants of Finnish citizens or citizens of Finland who now live in the USA.; 2. Americans who came to know Finns and Finland because of student or professional exchanges; 3. Americans who have discovered Finland or Finnish America for a variety of personal reasons, such as a love of heavy metal music or ice hockey, or perhaps a curiosity about why Finnish student success, or a desire to understand how Finland has nurtured so many world-class composers, musicians, and conductors as well as equally significant internet start-ups. During festivals, local members The local American public will attend FinnFest by selecting events based on a personal interest to learn more about the Nordic countries or to experience uniquely specific festival elements created specifically for the festival.
How many people attend FinnFest USA?
Because the sites and dates of the festival vary each year, attendance size also varies. The largest attendance records have occurred in Minnesota and Michigan. For example, audiences in Duluth in 2008 rose to 10,000 people attending all or part of the festival; in 2005 in Marquette, Michigan and 2013 in Houghton/Hancock, Michigan, attendance climbed to 8,000 people. These numbers reflect estimates of total attendance at FinnFest events in that particular year, including events where FinnFest USA was a co-sponsor with a local institution’s production. For example, when including events like the Minnesota Orchestra concerts, FinnFest USA 2017’s attendance was realistically above 10,000 persons.
Registration numbers reflect how many have committed to attend and support the festival, not just an event. Registrations vary, depending on the location and the format.
What are the dates and location for the 2018 festival?
FinnFest USA 2018 will occur in Tampere, Finland, June 24-29. The Lapland Hotel near the University of Tampere will serve as headquarters. Events will include visits to Tampere area museums and historic sites in the Häme region.
How will FinnFest USA 2018 be different from earlier festivals?
Attendance will be different. American and Canadian attendees will be limited to those who can travel to Finland for the June dates. However, due to interest in participating in events with these North American visitors, Finnish attendance may be larger.
This year, FinnFest USA’s local partners will all be in Finland: Suomi Seura, the organization that works specifically to connect Finland to the Finnish Diaspora around the world. Suomen Kirkon Ulkomaanapu (Finnish Church Aid), the City of Tampere, Asahi Nordic, Theatre Fiasko, have all agreed to help. Specific partnerships continue to be formed to support this year’s festival.
FinnFest USA in 2018 will be different in several other ways. No evening concerts are planned; instead, evenings will be organized to create events that connect attendees to Tampere’s special opportunities. Several events will be direct opportunities for the local Finnish community to meet FinnFest attendees. Music will be defined by special pop-up musical opportunities. Furthermore, while FinnFest USA usually constructs a pop-up town of events occurring around and adjacent to a central market place/tori, a tori is not planned for this year beyond an opportunity to have information booths at the Lapland Hotel.