July 28, 2008

FinnFest Organizers Glad They Came

By Sarah Horner, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.

Jul. 28--After years of planning, months of stressing and days of frenzied activity, Finnfest 2008 has officially left the city.

The five-day celebration of everything Finnish, which wrapped up Sunday, drew thousands of people to Duluth from across the globe, surpassing festival organizers' expectations.

"I think it exceeded our cautious projections," said Jeanne Doty, co-chair of Finnfest 2008. "It will take awhile to get our final numbers, but we were hoping for 7,000 people and I would say we ended up with more than that."

Those numbers place Duluth as the frontrunner, along with Marquette, Mich., for garnering the biggest turnout in the festival's history, according to Marianne Wargelin, president of Finnfest USA. The last time the festival was in Duluth was in 1992, when the city drew 7,000 for the festival.

"These tend to go from big to little depending on the year and the place, but our expectation was that if we went to Duluth, we were going to have a big festival, and it was," Wargelin said. "We were wise in our selection of Duluth. ... We had an incredible Finnfest."

That seemed to be the impression of many, Doty said.

"We had many, many people come up to us and thank us for such a wonderful event. ... One woman said she thought it was better than Christmas Eve," Doty said. "It got to that point where there weren't enough descriptors left to describe it."

Several people commented on the inviting spirit of the city.

"A lot of people talked about how warm and welcome not only the festival felt, but the entire Duluth community," Doty said. "People really appreciated that."

Raimo Viitala, the chair of Finn Grand Fest 2010 in Ontario and a visitor to this year's event, said Lake Superior was the perfect backdrop for Finnfest.

"Finland and water just go together. It was lovely to have it right by the lake," he said. He added that Duluth has set the bar high for festivals to come.

"We have a lot to live up to. This was just a fabulous festival," he said.

SARAH HORNER can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5342 or by e-mail at [email protected] duluthnews.com.


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