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Celebrating the Finnish: Becker County Museum opens St. Urho display

Most people are aware of the fact that St. Patrick's Day falls on March 17.

Each year, Celtic folk gather all over the world on that date to celebrate all things Irish.

That didn't sit too well with a certain Bemidji State University professor. A Finlander by birth, Dr. Sulo Havumaki decided he wanted to "steal a bit of the glory" from St. Patrick's Day revelers, by creating a day to celebrate his Finnish heritage.

Known as St. Urho's Day, the celebration was first held on March 16, 1955 -- one day before St. Patrick's Day.

Since that time, the celebration has been embraced by Finnish communities all over Minnesota, including Menahga, where a large celebration is held each year.

This year, Detroit Lakes has joined the ranks of those planning a St. Urho's Day celebration, set to take place this Wednesday -- March 16, of course -- at the Becker County Historical Society Museum.

Hosted by the Metha-Jarvi (in Finnish, "Lakes and Woods") Chapter of the Minnesota Finnish-American Historical Society, the celebration will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum.

Based in Detroit Lakes, the Metha-Jarvi Chapter has held St. Urho's Day celebrations many times in the past, but this is the first time that they will be hosting a public event, said Amy Degerstrom, director of the museum.

She's hoping it will become an annual tradition at the museum.

"They're inviting all Finns and friends of Finns," Degerstrom said with a laugh. "We'd love for people to come and have fun -- and maybe give us some ideas for future celebrations."

Because this is the inaugural event, the festivities will be relatively low key, with displays of Finnish history, arts and crafts -- and of course, they will include the legend of St. Urho, a mythical figure who was, in fact, invented by a Finnish-American.

That legend, as it has evolved through the years, states that St. Urho drove away grasshoppers (or frogs, as the original legend says) from Finland using the incantation "heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!" ("Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!"), thus saving the Finnish grape crops.

Finnish treats and coffee will also be served throughout the celebration. For more information, call 218-847-2938.