Laskiainen slides into Palo this weekend

The popular sledding run at the Laskiainen Winter Festival in Palo will be a hub of activithy Saturday as warmer temperatures will arrive just in time. The festival which also features arts, crafts, ethnic foods and music runs through Sunday.

PALO — For more than 80 years hardy folk have headed to Palo the first weekend in February for Laskiainen, the Finnish sliding festival. The 82nd event will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2-3, at the Loon Lake Community Center, in the rural community settled by Finns south of Aurora. The festival attracts hundreds for Finnish treats like kropsua and hernesupp and mojakka, for loaves of pulla and whole wheat leipa, for squeaky juusto — to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent begins.

Laskiainen will feature the brass septet "Ameriikan Poijat" performing at 1:30 p.m. Sunday and a basketball game at 6 p.m. Saturday between the Laskiainen Old-Timers and the Cromwell Cardinals Old-Timers, with "Minnesota's winningest coach," Bob McDonald of Chisholm, as honorary coach.

Here is the schedule of activities.

Saturday

7:30-11 a.m. — Kropsua breakfast. Kropsua is Finnish oven pancake.

9 a.m.-3 p.m. — Girls and boys pony league basketball games.

9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Old Co-op Theatre, strolling musicians, artisans and demonstrators, tori (marketplace), bakery, museum, fried bread booth.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Sleigh/carriage rides and dog sled rides (free).

Noon-4 p.m. — Mojakka (beef stew) or Sloppy Joes or Taco in a Bag.

4 p.m. — Queen coronation.

6 p.m. — Old-timers basketball game.

7:30 p.m. — Laskiainen Lakers basketball game.

Sunday

7:30-9:30 a.m. — Piggies and pancake breakfast (Pancakes, sausage, juice, coffee).

10 a.m. — Ecumenical church service with music by Friends on the Range.

9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Old Co-op Theatre, strolling musicians, artisans and demonstrators, tori (marketplace), bakery, museum, fried bread booth.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Sleigh/carriage rides and dog sled rides (free).

11 a.m.-4 p.m. — Pea soup (hernesupp) dinner.

1:15 p.m. — Introduction of the Royal Court.

1:30 p.m. — "Ameriikan Poijat" in the gym.

Ameriikan Poijat

The seven-member “Ameriikan Poijat” (Boys of America) has been appearing since 1990 when Paul Niemistö, the group’s founder, made contact with many Finnish brass players from the Midwest. Their repertoire includes waltzes, schottisches, polkas, mazurkas, polonaises and other social dances. Finnish brass septet music has Russian, Swedish and German influences, but its Finnish sound is described as unmistakable. In 1992 Ameriikan Poijat toured Finland and played an entry march for Finnish President Mauno Koivisto before an audience of 5,000.

Old-Timers Basketball

The Old-Timers from Palo-Markham will take on the Cromwell Cardinals Old-Timers, in basketball at 6 p.m. Saturday. The P-M team includes many alumni from this area who played for Palo-Markham as Pony Leaguers, and some played for the former Palo-Markham Lakers in high school. Warm-ups begin at 5:30 p.m.

A History of Laskiainen

Laskiainen originally marked the beginning of the 40-day long Easter fast practiced among Christians. So Shrovetide, right before Ash Wednesday, was the last chance to enjoy rich foods. Sliding down the snow-covered hills meant good luck and a good harvest if one shouted while tobogganing "long flax, fine hemps and turnips of the size of a plate." And it's a time to spend a day outdoors with friends and family and enjoy pea soup and desserts with lots of whipped cream.

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