My newfound interest in my Finnish heritage led me to the West Coast this year. I received grant money from Finlandia Foundation National to get out of Michigan and capture stories from Finnish communities in other parts of the country. Who knew there were Finns in Washington State? I feel silly that I did not. Finns immigrated to the western coast to log and fish, straight from Finland, or moved west after the mining strikes in the upper Midwest.
Naselle, Washington is a small village just north of the Columbia River, near the coast. 3rd and 4th generation Finnish-Americans still live on the same homesteads. In 1982, a group of women created the first Finnish-American Folk Fest in Naselle, to celebrate and preserve their heritage. The first festival had over 2,000 attendees and is now a biennial mainstay of the community. A time for people to come home and reunite with old friends and family. Many family reunions are held this weekend (a good story idea for 2020!)
Everyone I met was friendly and eager to have me there. I even ended up on the program showing “Co-operatively Yours”! This 3-day festival is packed with plenty of things to see and do. I was exhausted at the end of each day. In a good way! I filmed so much great video, I participated in a 5K, I ate a bunch of delicious food. The only thing I’m disappointed about was I didn’t get a chance to see everything. And I won’t see them in 2020 because they try not to have the same exhibits or lecturers twice. Anita Raistakka, who oversees lecturers, already has 3 lined up for the next festival.
I highly recommend this festival for anyone interested in their Finnish roots. I stayed at the affordable Motel 6 in Astoria, Oregon, just 10 or so miles south of Naselle. And the Motel 6 is in the old Finnish part of Astoria, the old public sauna building is right across the street. Next time I’m in town I plan to stay at the Atomic Motel, just as affordable and in the same area. Stay tuned for stories from Astoria!
I hope you watch my story about the Finnish-American Folk Fest! Find out more about the festival at https://nasellefinnfest.com
Kristin Ojaniemi is a Finnish-American filmmaker, video creator and proud Yooper full of sisu.