ALSTON - It was hard work, carving out a life in the Copper Country in the early years of the 20th century, and visitors to the Hanka Homestead Finnish Historical Museum learned just how tough it wads during the museum's Heritage Day celebration Saturday.
Visitors learned how to bake in a wood-fired oven, weave rag rugs, prepare firewood traditionally and square logs by hand with a broad axe to build snug homes and barns that would get them through the winter.
"It was some life back in those days," said Paul Heikkila, who was demonstrating the tools used for traditional construction and explaining the benefits of the double dovetail joinery used in Finnish log construction.
Kivijat Dancers, including Audrey Stewart and Johan Hepokoski at center, perform a traditional Finnish folk dance during Hanka Homestead Family Heritage Day on Saturday. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Dan Roblee)
"If you want to know if a Finlander built a cabin, go inside," he said. "If you can't see any light, a Finlander made it."
There was also some time for the less labor-intensive side of life, with a Finnish children's music workshop, heritage games, plenty of pasties to go around and, for the first time, performances by the Kivijat and Loistavat youth folk dance troupes, who helped everyone share the fun by inviting visitors to join in for several of the dances.
"I've been here many times, and wished the kids could come and dance," said Kay Seppala, director of the dance troupes. "It's kind of a dream come true."
According to Hanka Homestead Museum Association member Bill Lahti, the turnout was probably the best in the five years he's been involved in the event. At about 4 p.m., the count at the gate was 176 guests, with plenty of folks still expected for the 6 p.m. bonfire and musical performance by the Otter River Ramblers.
"A lot of people here are interested in what we've been doing," said Museum Association member Sharon Eklund.
"It's good to see the ways they did things on the stove, how they did laundry different from today," said one of those kids, Kivijat dancer Katie Jaszczak.
Eve Lindsey, who was demonstrating rug weaving on an antique hand-carved loom, which "banged" each strip of fabric into place, said it was good to see that some of today's youths still have connections to the old ways and that some of the old looms still survive.
At another demonstration, "One boy said, 'My grandma used to bang rugs,' " she remembered. "It's a great old art. I'm hoping it doesn't die. If you don't keep young people involved, it's going to disappear."
Helen Stenvig was demonstrating cooking on the Hanka kitchen's wood stove. Because she'd been so busy with guests, she'd so far focused on a traditional stew with venison and local root vegetables, though she planned to bake rieska, or Finnish flat bread, if she had a chance.
While stove-top cooking is relatively easy, baking on a wood stove is tough, she said, due to the challenge of regulating temperature.
"They were good at just putting their hand in the oven and knowing that it's right," she said.