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FinnFest USA brings Finnish cultural to life in Buffalo


A decades-old celebration of Finnish culture and heritage makes its way to Buffalo this weekend.

The event will be celebrated with a wide range of activities. Highlighted among them are special performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to honor the 150th Anniversary of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Finnish Embassy Cultural Counselor Keijo Karjalainen said classical music like that of Sibelius is part of Finnish life from early ages.

“We are strong in classical music. So we have many world class conductors and music is an integral part of our school education from pre-school to second grade,” said Karjalainen.

“So people are really familiar about classical music in Finland, but we also love Tango and Heavy Metal.”

Credit Keijo Karjalainen
Finnish Embasy Cultutal Counselor Keijo Karjalainen

FinnFest got its start in the early 80s when representatives from Finnish American organizations wanted to reinvent Finnish summer festivals. The first event was held in Minneapolis and since then has been held in a different city each year. Karjalainen said the program’s richness is what has kept it alive for so long.

“It has always, always been that there’s panel discussions and music and concerts and exhibitions, and also that people from Finland are coming,” said Karjalainen.

Contemporary videographer and photographer Eija-Liisa Ahtila will be coming to display her work, along with Finnish authors and music groups. Karjalainen said the event has “everything for everyone.”

Art won’t be the only thing to embrace during FinnFest. Karjalainen said one of the special attractions is the Tori, which means market in Finnish. Patrons will have the opportunity to buy items such as Finnish foods, clothing, and Finnish manufactured products.

Listen to the full interview with Keijo Karjalainen to hear more about Finland, FinnFest, and to learn a Finnish greeting.

To see the full shedule of events, vist the FinnFest USA 2015 website.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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