Festival teaches U.P. culture

Stephanie Gonyou

Singing, dancing and being creative are talents of those involved in the celebration of Upper Peninsula culture. The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center will host the third annual Upper Peninsula Folklife Festival to showcase these passions.

“It’s a two-day event that celebrates traditional arts of the Upper Peninsula,” said Daniel Truckey, director and curator of the Heritage Center. “(Attending) is a way for students to learn from people who are masters of the trade … because not a lot of people have knowledge of the traditional arts of the U.P.”

The Funky Folk Dance, featuring performances by Conga Se Menne and the PasiCats, will be from 7 – 9:30 p.m. on Friday. Conga Se Menne is the world’s only known Finnish reggae band, and the PasiCats claim to be “the third-best Finnish dance band in the whole copper country.”

Pasi Lautala, the manager and spiritual leader of the PasiCats, said he is looking forward to being involved in an event of this nature.

“The festival is a really good time; it is very upbeat. It is also not very restrictive as far as folk music goes. We have some really old Finnish tunes, as well as some very American tunes. We feel that our music enriches the whole mixture,” Lautala said.

The Folklife Festival is going to change a little from previous years. Not only is it being held in September instead of March, but it will also be held outside for the first time.

“We changed it because we felt if we did it outside, it would be more of a festival environment,” Truckey said.

Apart from musical performances, there will be a number of artists demonstrating and holding workshops for people to get involved in, like blacksmithing, hand drum making, spoon carving and rag rug weaving.

Artist and volunteer April Lindala will be showing how she completes traditional and contemporary Native American beadwork.

“I’m purposely bringing pieces that I have started but have not yet finished,” Lindala said.

Lindala has taught Native American beadwork classes at NMU, and she is currently the adviser of the Native American Student Association. This will be her first year being involved in the festival directly.

“I am excited to be able to show students and the community the process of finishing a pair of ethnic earrings or a loom work. I invite them to come up, watch and ask questions,” Lindala said.

On Saturday, ethnic foods from across the U.P. such as pasties, cudighi sandwiches and buffalo burgers will be available for purchase.

“Dining Services takes care of everything, and they are very creative,” said Truckey.

This festival is free and open to the public, and will be held on the lawn outside the Don H. Bottum University Center on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11. It is funded in part by the state of Michigan and the federal government, but donations are still encouraged to help cover the cost of the event. If interested in volunteering at the U.P. Folklife Festival, call Dan Truckey at (906) 227-1219.