FINNISH INTERNATIONAL GRAND FESTIVAL


Marquette, Michigan

August 2005

By: Vic Thomas

 

The Finnish Grand Fest was held this August 2005 in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the community of Marquette. The area was first settled by French explorers in the 1700's and is known for its rich mineral and timber resources. Finnish settlers first began to arrive in the area in the 1800's and through today it retains a heavy Finnish flavor with a very large population of inhabitants of Finnish and other Nordic descent. The Grand Festival is held every 5 years and the previous event was held in Toronto , Canada in 2000. This years event, the third such Grand Festival welcomed the Finnish Americans and Finnish citizens to discover and celebrate their history, traditions and culture through a series of events. The schedule carried everything from concerts of Finnish composers both old and new to a 5k run named in honor of Paavo Nurmi, former olympic gold medallist. Speakers covered the gamete from cultural topics to history and present day events. The festival was a week long celebration of everything Finnish running from August 8th through the 14th. Most of the event was held on the sprawling campus of the beautiful Northern Michigan University located in Marquette. The owners of this web site Vic Thomas and Brent Snodgrass, participated in the event as a featured speaker at the outside bunker display (Brent) and as a primary military weapons exhibitor in the gymnasium (Vic). The following is a photo essay report and some commentary of the event and of my display-The Finnish War Exibit 1919-1945. There is some additional photos of the KevOs4 bunker and of my partner for the event- Tero Tuononen's paper display that accompanied mine to create the war exibit you will see below.

 

An aerial view of the south harbor of Marquette Michigan located on Lake Superior. The large brown piers are ore docks. Marquette sits in a protected natural bay to the east of the Keewenaw Peninsula. Its an important stop for the ocean going freighters that carry ore from the mining communities located on the Great Lakes.

 

Chairs painted in the Finnish colors of sky blue and white were placed all over the festival. These chairs were lining every street and event and were donated by local families, business' and individuals after painting them. Each had a special message or comment and over 3,000 were used during the event for anybody to sit down and take a rest or just admire its message or beauty.

Native Finnish bands and entertainers performed all over the event both indoors and out. This folk group from Finland played inside the Superior Dome, the home to the "Tori" (marketplace) and some food venues.

A proud race entrant in the Paavo Nurmi 10k race. Asked why I did not participate I was at a loss for a reason. Perhaps it's because I run only when somebody is chasing me or I'm late for happy hour. If this runner was chasing me perhaps I would have run for a short distance then let her catch me!

A view of a section of the Superior Dome. The Dome stands 14 stories high and encompasses 5.1 acres under its roof. Constructed of 781 Douglas Fir Beams and 108.5 miles of fir decking, the Dome has a permanent seating capacity of 8,000, though the building can hold as many as 16,000 people. The facility features a diameter of 536 feet, and has the ability to withstand 60 pounds per square foot of snow and 80 mile per hour winds.
The Dome’s features include a retractable artificial turf carpet, the largest of its kind in the world. When extended, the turf has the ability to accommodate football, soccer, and field hockey. Underneath the carpet is a synthetic playing surface that features three basketball/volleyball courts, two tennis courts and a 200-meter track.
Twelve computerized winches extend the carpet over a cushion of air. It takes 30 minutes to retract the artificial turf carpet and approximately two hours for full setup to be completed.  The Dome is the largest wooden construction dome in the world.

A view of the roof of the Superior Dome showing its post and beam geometric construction.

A section of the dome was reserved for the marketplace or 'Tori' featuring some Finnish food, crafts and other business venues. Business was brisk here for the entire event. Should weather had been a factor some outside events would have been moved here. The dome was large enough to accommodate most of the outdoor venues.

Most of the event participants and visitors found affordable accommodations in the dormitory rooms of Northern Michigan University. I had forgotten how spartan dorm life and rooms could be. I had always thought it would be fun to go back to college if i could be 20 again but maybe not after this week of staying here......12x12 cubes with a view...The upper penninsula of Michigan is home to many thousands of Finnish immigrants who found the rugged beauty and climate to be a perfect match for home in 1800's and 1900's when they first began to arive in the heavily timbered area's of the far northern section of Michigan.

Maybe it was better when the hallways were filled with Co-ed's?

Co-ed wannabe's? I think not. Just the Thomas girls thinking they're in college.

The "bunkerri" and War exhibit took place at the PEIF building (Physical Education Instructional Facility) which is part of the Olympic training center for winter sports. The War exhibit was held in the building behind the sign and the mortar pit bunker was just to the left of it.

Brent "Tuco" Snodgrass donated his 120mm Tampella made Finnish mortar for use in the outside display. These large caliber mortars are rarely seen outside of finland and very few were ever made. The Kevos4 Re-enactment group manned the bunker and fielded question about the group and some history. Mr. Snodgrass gave a detailed 15 minute speech and answer session each day at 3:00 Pm regarding the large Soviet offensive of 1944 and the Finnish defensive positions and response. The speech detailed Finnish positions at the time on the isthmus and the aspects of the Soviet attack and heroic defense of the Finnish Army at the "VT" line. The mortar bunker was built to resemble an actual position of the time. Despite the groups best efforts and Mr. Snodgrass' personal assurance that he would fill in the hole, the bunker was not allowed to be dug into the ground as it would have appeared during the war. The pit would have been ground level with the logs as a reinforcing wall in the pit.

Tuco sporting his Italian m/33 helmet in case the crowd became unruly.

Finnish brothers "Pentti and Timo" set up an authentic field kitchen to make "Lettuja" or Finnish pancakes. Actually looking much more like crepes these were fruit jam filled and quite tasty. I can attest to the fact that several of them were consumed to test the edibility of them for the general consumption of the crowd. Seated in the blue jacket is "Urho", a Lappland native who served as a sniper in the Continuation War period for the Finnish Army.

Tero Tuononen brought his lovingly restored m/29 Finnish army field kitchen to the event. Authentic Finnish Army pea soup was served out of it by a Finnish veteran now residing in Florida. Mr. Snodgrass personally ate 15 bowels of it so he could talk to the lovely Anna who was serving the soup. The field kitchen is a model of 1929 which was serial number 34 indicating its production in early 1936. It served throughout the wars and was purchased at auction from the Finnish Army in 2003. It was painstakingly restored and reworked to be propane fueled instead of wood for the event.

A local breeder of the famed Karelian bear Dogs was present. She is the only breeder outside of Finland of this nearly extinct breed of dog. The dog pen proved to be very popular with young and old alike.

For a nominal fee...actaully a rather impressive fee... you could be the proud owner of one of these famed dogs. Several puppies of the pure bred parents were on hand to see the hundreds of kids and adults look on at them all day long. If  my kids would have agreed to forgo college I may have considered buying one of the two for sale. For more info on these dogs or if your interested you can email the owner at:  Gailrasanen@aol.com

Located in the PEIF building the War display was held in the basketball training room. With over 50  8' tables it took up the entire arena and was over 8,400 sq ft in size. 24 different mannequins were presented with full gear and 5 other uniforms presented on table top. Over 85 weapons were displayed featuring early, standard and late production variants of each rifle model used in the Finnish armed forces from 1919 to 1945. Heavy equipment was also presented with Maxim models 09, 09/21 and 32/33 in an AA role displayed. The feared Lahti model 39 AT gun was also shown along with other small arms from the Kp-31 smg to the sniper rifles of the period. Myself (Vic Thomas) and Tero Tuononen provided the war exhibit as a team. I handled the uniforms and equipment and Tero provided the paper items and center display area all expertly displayed.

Some visitors enjoying the display's.

A section of the display depicting some typical uniforms of the day. Shown are an Army captain, sergeant and Civil Guard's man from 1937. Behind is a Lotta Svard and several 3/4 mannequins of various service branchs.

A center view of the hall showcasing some uniform display's and some story boards.

An early Finnish flag from the first days of the Finnish Independence.

Some of Vic's uniform display encompassing tunics from 1919 through 1945. Depicted are the 1919, Cajander or early m/27 tunic, a Civil Guard m/25 summer tunic and a naval issue model 1936. In the corner is a typical soldier equipment as issued on conscription in 1942.

Vic's medical and Air Force pilots uniforms both from 1940 in the display. Both are captain in rank as well. One has to remember that the number of Finnish pilots during the wars was rather small and these tunics are quite rare today. The fighter pilots badge on the breast pocket alone is extremely rare. The pistol holster is for the Browning Hi-Power as issued to flight crews.

Some more of my display. From left to right is the m/36 leather tankers tunic, a m/27 army tunic and a m/22 artillery officers uniform with dress/parade belt. For more information on these tunics and others please my uniform section located at Finnish Tunic Section of Mosin Nagant.net

 

 

A rear view of some my floor display's

 

A section of the rifle display. Each rack displayed an early, middle and late model of each weapon used in the Finnish wars from 1918 to 1945.

Over 85 weapons were brought for this display.

Some of Tero's outstanding paper display's. These are actual newspapers from the 1939-1940 period announcing the Finnish battles and news from the front.

Tero had several tables of actual photographs from veterans of the conflict as well as story boards detailing important features or events. Tero does an exceptional job in his educational display's and I'm fortunate to have done some other Finn fest events with him.

More of Tero Tuononen's  outstanding display.

 

Tero on patrol

 

I always like to include at larger venues a multi media display and interactive center. Here I had a lap top so that visitors could enjoy the "Winter War" CD and several TV's for showing documentaries about the war such as the "Miracle of Ilhantra", "Finnish Air War" and approximately 2 hours of actual wartime news reel footage of the Continuation War. These proved very popular, especially with the veterans and families. The news reels are in Finnish and always attracted a large crowd when they were on. I had seating for approximately 9 in front of the center.

 

A view of some of the rifle displays' and the floor displays of the heavy equipment.

 

The display also included common bayonets of the Finnish Army and Civil Guard. All of the m/91 and 91/30 bayonets are [SA] marked.

A display of some of the more common Finnish service pistols. They include some Italian, German and captured pieces as ell as Finnish production and contracts.

My display included some paperwork of a common soldier from pass books to ID cards and manuals.

Soft caps of the Finnish soldier and one "borrowed" Russian one from 1939.

 

Helmets of the Finnish Army. These were some of the most common helmets plus a captured Russian m/36 used in rear area duty. The two front left helmets are Brent Snodgrass's and are of historical significance being known owners and units they served. For more info on Tuco's rare helmets see the helmet section at  www.mosinnagant.net under the Finnish section.

 

Some insignia and pins on display. The insignia on the right was used for service branch identification. Each display had a detailed description of the contents according to a corresponding number in the case.

More medals and pins. Finn dog tags are in the upper right case along with cockades. On the left are typical medals and proficiency badges and shooting commendation pins.

Ahhh some good stuff finally. This is a captured Soviet m/1910 maxim on a wheeled "Sokolov" mount. It was captured in 1942 and reissued to Finnish forces immediately. These wheeled mounts were not terribly popular in Finnish service due to the rough terrain.

More heavy equipment. In the fore ground is a m/32/33 Maxim in its AA position.

 

The Lahti model 1939 anti tank gun. Capable of knocking out anything on the battle field in 1940- it was soon obsolete on the Finnish fronts with the appearance of the Russian T-34. It was used still in an AT role but more often in a AA role or bunker buster capacity.

 

The corner display of some self-loading rifles and sniper rifles of the Finnish army. Contrary to published reports of the poor accuracy of the Tokarev rifle, I had 4 Finnish ex-snipers come through the and tour the exhibit and 3 of them went immediately to the SVT-40 sniper rifle in the display. It was the consensus favorite of all of them. They spoke highly of the self-loading design and said while not it was not a "one hole" target rifle, it more than "did the job". I found this surprising as the Russians often spoke out against the SVT in a snipers role and on a whole it was a love/ hate relationship with the rifle. One of the highest scoring Russian snipers was  women who used the telescopically sighted SVT-40.

"Urho" a native Lapplander served as a sniper in the Finnish army in the north. His area of deployment was in the Petsamo theater where he fought for 2 years before being moved to the Isthmus in 1944.  His rifle of issue-the SVT-40 he's proudly holding. he spoke highly of the rifle saying it was easy to shoot and he enjoyed the quick follow up shot it afforded. As a boy he was taught by his uncle to shoot squirrels for food.  After a few poorly aimed shots his uncle told him to 'shoot the squirrel in the ear when the tree sways over, that way you won't waste any meat". Needless to say Urho took that to heart and his skills became such that he was trained and deployed as a sniper from 1940-1944.  He was very fond of the SVT-40 and said that he had the same rifle for all the time he was in service. After leaving the field he returned home and placed the rifle in his sisters attic. Unfortunately the Germans during the retreat from Finland in 1945 burned his sisters house down and he lost the rifle. Through out the exhibit I heard story after story from vets that made all of the hard work that went into the display worth while.

 

The Suomi Kp-31 and PPsH-41 sub machine guns and magazines.

Packing up and heading home to Toronto. The Tuononen trailer is "sort of" full.

 

Maybe I can fit just one more thing in this cargo truck?

Angry wife says "No I do not want to be in the wife carrying race again" and throws the "I want to go home look" at me as we lock the doors and move on. Perhaps in 5 more years I'll agree to do another Grand Fest display after i forget how sore I am now....

 


Thanks for visiting!

Be sure to visit:  www.mosinnagant.net for more information about Russo Finnish items.

For any questions or contact information on this display or for future displays

please feel free to drop me a note at my e-mail address below!

Vic Thomas

mhc1@comcast.net

I want to thank all of the people that came by during the exhibit for their kind words and heartfelt thanks for putting it on for them, the event organizers who started to ask me to do this some 3 years ago and made this whole thing possible, and to and my wife and my friend  and partner in this event Tero Tuononen who's material made up the other half of the display . Thier invaluable help made it much easier than if I was alone. The aid in loading and unloading the material as well as the volunteers who where there made it all possible. And to my wife, Michele, my kids Allie and Lauren and my good friend Brent Snodgrass who helped me with set up, tear down and to place placards as well as all of the other little stuff that made this a successful venture. Thanks guys, you made it happen much easier than if I was alone and without all of you this would never have happened.

Vic Thomas 8/2005