Recapping the 100th Celebration Events   July 22-25, 2010

On behalf of the 100th Anniversary Committee of the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club of Port Arthur located in Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada, I wish to thank each and everyone who contributed and supported our Celebration event this past July.

Our planning and fundraising for this 100th Anniversary event started over six years ago with gala receptions, bazaars, movie afternoons to name a few.  Two years ago, along with our partners the Bay/Algoma Business Association, we started to plan in depth and organize the 100th Anniversary Summer Festival and Celebration.

Our group is comprised of nine women with varied interests and careers but with a shared passion to celebrate and share their Finnish heritage in Thunder Bay.  Our first priority was to introduce the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club of Port Arthur building to the general public.  With volunteer help,  was born on February 2009.  The premise of the website was to list upcoming events pertaining to the summer Festival and Celebration; familiarize the general public with the actual building inside and out; share the building's rich history through stories and photos and to share stories and photos from the public. Although the actual celebration has come and gone, the website remained up and running until February 2011. 

100th Celebration Events   July 22-25, 2010

Thursday, July 22nd was a beautiful, hot day.  The festivities officially started with the Finlandia Club 100th Anniversary Golf Tournament at the Strathcona Municipal Golf Course.  There were eleven teams consisting of four golfers per team.  A good time was had by all.  At 6:30p.m. the golfers enjoyed a beef on a bun supper at the Finn Hall, on Bay Street, during which time presentation of prizes and certificates took place.  Thank you to the golfers and all who donated to make this event a success.   Thank you to committee members Marjatta Makela, Maarit McCallum and Mona Pitkanen for hosting the golf event.

Friday, July 23rd festivities started off with a Finnish language play "Kylankellot" (Town Bells) performed by members of the Senior Citizens Amateur Theatre Group of the Finlandia Club of Port Arthur.  The performers Annikki, Mailis, Katri and Eija were directed by Veijo Holopainen.  Original 1940's backdrop panels, depicting a cozy parlour were used to set the scene.  Coffee and pulla (coffee bread) was served after the play.  The afternoon presentation was a resounding success enjoyed by all who attended.  The Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club building has housed the theatre group since 1910. The first play ever performed in the building was called "Pirun Kirkko" (Devil's Church).

Friday evening at the Finlandia Club Hall was electrifying.  The hall filled to overflowing with celebrants eagerly awaiting "CONGA SE MENNE", a Finnish-American Reggae band from Marquette, Michigan.  The audience was blown away by the fabulous music of the band as excitement increased with every beat.  Not even the excessive heat could keep the dancers off the floor. 
By 2 a.m. the 100 year old Finlandia Club Hall was quiet and empty.  What a fantastic night!

Saturday, July 24th morning started early for the 100th committee members as they readied Bay Street for the arrival of hundreds of guests to the Celebration/Festival/Street Market.  Vendors were setting up their tables while Bay/Algoma merchants arranged tables outside their businesses.  Bay Street was closed to traffic to allow the crowds to sit and listen to entertainment at the open air stage next to the Finlandia Club building.  Jari Leinonen served as a masterful MC for the day's stage performances.  At 10 a.m. the Finnish Ladies Choir Oras, dressed in Finnish National costumes, opened up the program.   The stage performances continued until 5 p.m. with a variety of performers.  Mayor Lynn Peterson for the City of Thunder Bay and Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay/Superior North brought greetings.  By late afternoon, Bay Street between Secord and Algoma Street was seating up to a thousand guests, comfortable in lawn chairs and chairs borrowed from the hall to accommodate one and all.  Delicious food and drink was available from the street vendors and the Finlandia Club Hall Volunteer kitchen.

The much anticipated Bay "Street Dance" started at 7 p.m.  Entertainment was provided by our very own Thunder Bay "QUEST" orchestra with John Scaffeo.  We have enjoyed and danced to their sound throughout the years.  The sun was still shining when the people started to dance to the wonderful music from the outdoor stage.  By sundown the headliner JUKKA KUOPPAMAKI joined QUEST on stage.  Many in attendance were already familiar with his songs.  This is his 50th year as a performer.  Although the lyrics were in the Finnish language there was no doubt that the melody of his songs reached many.  Throughout the evening, guests had a chance to meet Jukka Kuoppamaki; have a few words, a photo and get his latest CD 'Minun Lauluni' (My Song).   We would all like to extend our gratitude to Sirpa and Jukka Kuoppamaki for making this historical Finnish milestone memorable for so many. 

Celebrants could not have asked for a more beautiful evening to commemorate the 100th year of a building that has played a role in the lives of so many people for so long.  To add to the already magical atmosphere of a summer street dance; the full moon rose over the Sleeping Giant and shone through the leaves of the trees in front of the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club building.  The mood was one of kinship.  People danced; people sat and listened; people sang along.  All too soon the evening came to an end.  The chairs were carried back into the Finn Hall, the celebrants dispersed, the stage stood quiet and by 12:30 a.m. Sunday; the street was empty.  The festivities of Saturday, July 24, 2010 became a part of the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club of Port Arthur history.  Thank you to all who came and made this 100th Celebration of a special building so memorable.  YOU are now a part of its history!

Sunday, July 25th found the volunteers in full swing by 6 a.m. in the Finn Hall kitchen preparing a buffet breakfast ready to serve at 8 a.m.  Raakkeli Nuorala, the head cook was leading the way. Bruce Hyer (MP Thunder Bay/Superior North) joined the ladies and helped to make a tasty Finnish pancake breakfast enjoyed by many guests. Thank you to the volunteers who, through their hard work, made every part of the Celebration/Festival a success.  

The beautiful, sunny afternoon provided guests a chance to enjoy the historic atmosphere surrounding the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club Hall.  People sat on the benches and toured Bay Street.  The Hoito Restaurant was a must see for the guests who were visiting the city for this event.  Many were reminiscing about Saturday's events and looking forward to the evening concert that would be the final segment of the 100th Anniversary Celebration.

The Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club of Port Arthur is an important part of Thunder Bay history.  It is a monument to the hard working Finnish people of this community.  Thunder Bay has so much to offer historically.  St. Paul's United Church on Waverly Street, built in 1914, was the perfect venue for the final concert.  Across from the church sits Waverly Park which is the second oldest municipal park in Ontario.  To the east sits Central School (Magnus Theatre), built in 1884.  Port Arthur Collegiate Institute, built in 1909, sits high on the hill overlooking the park. 

The Sunday evening concert began with the Finnish Mixed Choir of Thunder Bay, under the direction of Eric Riekko, assembling in the choir-stalls.  The interior of the church was beautiful with the setting sun shining through the stained glass windows to the west.  The mixed Choir is made up of the Oras, Otava, Hilldale Church and Saalem Church choirs.  Their voices were festive and brilliant.   Next Eija Pyykkonen welcomed all the guests and introduced Jukka Kuoppamaki and John Scaffeo.  The performance was heartfelt and memorable.  The evening ended with handshakes and many had a chance to speak with Jukka Kuoppamaki and his wife Sirpa Kuoppamaki.

The 100th Anniversary Celebration not only celebrated the longevity of the building, but also the endurance and perseverance (sisu) of the people who kept it running for the past one hundred years.  Thank you to all the men and women past and present who in some way connected with the Finnish Labour Temple/Finlandia Club of Port Arthur.  Thank you to one and all for participating and making this celebration so extraordinary.  I want to extend a special thank you to all the hard working volunteers and performers. 

Margit Peura, Chairperson
On behalf of the Finlandia Club 100th Anniversary Committee
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada



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