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Naselle’s Finnish-American Folk Festival: A must-see event

Register soon for Paavo Nurmi 5K walk/run


Observer correspondent

Published on July 6, 2018 7:37AM

Carol and Don Haskell of Astoria examined a local genealogical chart of Finn ancestry during the 2014 Finnish-American Folk Festival in Naselle.


Carol and Don Haskell of Astoria examined a local genealogical chart of Finn ancestry during the 2014 Finnish-American Folk Festival in Naselle.

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NASELLE — Naselle’s biennial Finnish-American Folk Festival, also known as FinnFest, is scheduled to take place on July 27, 28 and 29 on the grounds of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School.

FinnFest has taken place on every even numbered year since 1982 at the school in Naselle, often referred to as the little village with the big heart. This year, the festival hosts an impressive list of musical performers, a play by playwright Sue Holway, displays and lecturers. Finnish related items and products from local craftsmen will be on sale in the Tori (Finnish for market place). An array of food items will also be available from onsite vendors.

The theme for the 2018 FinnFest is “Finnish 101.”

“Lyle Haataja proposed the theme,” said FinnFest Organizing Committee Chairman Mike Swanson. “As soon as they heard the proposal, the FinnFest committee members knew that was exactly the right theme. There are several reasons why it is a perfect fit — 2018 is the anniversary of 101 years of Finnish independence. Naselle is just off Highway 101 and, we have also scheduled an individual to conduct Finnish 101 language classes during the festival.”

Aallotar, the duo of Sara Pajunen and Teija Niku, is returning to perform music from their latest album. The always-popular musical group Skamokawa Swamp Opera is also returning to perform. Double J and the Boys, Carl Wirkkala and the Ghost Town Boys, The Naselle Kantele’s, Gene Quilhaugh, Valerie Blessley, Dale Bradley and the much-loved Children’s Choir are all scheduled to perform. Two professional dance groups are also on the agenda. Under the tutelage of Haleigh See, local young ladies will provide several performances of the Maypole dance as they weave an intricate design of cloth ribbons around the pole. Following a raffle for donated prizes, the entertainment will conclude with a dance to the music of Toby Hanson and the Smilin’ Scandinavians.

A more recently formed musical group will be performing for the first time at the festival on Saturday evening, July 28, and is generating a lot of buzz. Deep River resident Krist Novoselic of Nirvana fame and other local area musicians have formed a new group “Giants in the Trees.”

“Giants in the Trees is scheduled to be the opening act for the Sept. 1 performance of the Foo Fighters at Safeco Field in Seattle as part of their 2018 Concrete and Gold Tour and at the Foo Fighters’ second annual Cal Jam Festival in San Bernardino, California the following month,” said Deep River resident Justin Laine. “It’s pretty exciting that a group of that stature will be performing at our local festival.”

The cultural programming series organized by FinnFest committee member Anita Raistakka features an impressive list of speakers/presenters. That list includes Finnish 101 teacher Dan Karvonen as well as presentations by Irene Martin, John Stephens, Sharon Franklin Rahkonen, Ellen Marie Jensen, Frank Eld, Toumas Hovi and Naselle’s own Bryan Pentilla. In addition, there will be a showing of the film, “A Singing Revolution” and scheduled children’s activities.

The Paavo Nurmi 5K walk/run will take place on Saturday morning, July 28. Registration will be $15 without a T-shirt or $25 including a commemorative T-shirt. Those wishing T-shirts are requested to pre-register by July 12. For others, registration can be completed up to the time of the race start at 8 a.m. The registration form can be accessed through the internet at nasellefinnfest.com/2018-festival/2018-paavo-nurmi. Following the run, ESA sorority members will hold a pannukakku (Finnish pancake) breakfast at the school. Later that same day, the Grays River Grange will hold a salmon dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The FinnFest golf tournament will take place on July 26 at the Peninsula golf course in Long Beach. Following a lunch at noon, a shotgun start will begin at 1 p.m. The format is a four-person team scramble. Following the tournament there will be a drawing for prizes and awarding of the much-coveted tournament trophy. Registration fee for the tournament is $50.

The festival is always a fun-filled and informative event that should be high on everyone’s list. Admission is free (although donations will be accepted and appreciated). Parking by the gymnasium will be reserved for handicapped individuals with handicap stickers displayed on their vehicle. Pets will not be allowed on the school grounds, except for registered service animals.

The festival will conclude with the worship and closing ceremonies on Sunday, July 29.


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