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      HeikinpÃivà brings hundreds to the Keweenaw

      It is a Finnish American celebration or better known to the locals as HeikinpÃivÃ.

      For the past 13 years, Hancock has hosted the event, and the city takes pride in its large Finnish population.

      â??It celebrates Saint Henrikâ??s day, which in old folk culture was the halfway mark of winter,â?? said James Kurtti, Director of the Finnish American Heritage Center.

      The swirling snow flurries didnâ??t keep people from enjoying the festival, including one of the biggest attractions, the Polar Bear Dive. With roaring cheers from the crowd, hundreds of fearless individuals leaped into the frigid waters of the Portage Canal.

      â??Iâ??ve probably done it for 20 years now. I just enjoy it, itâ??s part of winter,â?? said participant Scott Quick.

      The celebration also called for a parade where the grand marshal sat high atop the worldâ??s largest kicksled, and many dressed in costumes.

      â??Some people are wearing Sami gakti which is the traditional clothing of the Sami or the Lappish people, and some have character costumes, which are Finnish and Finnish American folk characters,â?? Kurtti said.

      After the parade, kids piled into the vipukelkka, or whipsled, which mimics a modern day merry go round, and they competed in a kicksled race.

      People kept warm inside the Finnish American Heritage Center where vendors offered nisu, a Finnish sweet bread, and other baked goods and crafts.

      The Finnish Theme Committee says next yearâ??s HeikinpÃivà will be even more exciting because it will be the beginning of ushering in FinnFest, and as the traditional Finnish saying goes, *karhu kÃÃntÃà kylkeÃ.

      *Karhu kÃÃntÃà kylkeà translates to the bear rolls over to the other side. This means winter is half over.