The Irish have St. Patrick, the Finns have St. Urho.
St. Urho, the pseudo super hero, has been embraced by the New World Finns as much as Finn-glish and Mojakka. St. Urho came on the scene in Thunder Bay in the early ‘80s and has been celebrated on Bay Street on the Saturday that lands closest to March 16th – the unofficial official St. Urho’s Day – ever since.
This year, Saturday, March 18, St. Urho will once again incarnate as a 5 foot tall, carved, wooden statue to join in the festivities at the Finnish Labour Temple on 314 Bay Street. The day’s activities run from Noon to 3:30 p.m., which include a market, presentations, food, and of course, the much anticipated parade on Bay Street. Once again this year is a call to the public to make your own float and join the parade. In the evening, you can enjoy dancing and socializing until St. Urho disappears for another year.
While in the Bay and Algoma district be sure to check out the plaque that Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled at the 2015 St. Urho's Day celebration commemorating the Finnish Labour Temple as a national historic site.
The Finnish culture is ingrained with fantastic stories from the ancient Norse, as depicted in the Kalevala - The National Epic of Finland. In its pages, other worlds, villains, and heroes fill the imagination. So it’s no wonder that the subsequent generations would conjure their own story, where St. Urho is revered for slaying the grasshoppers that had devoured every grape from Finland.
The North American tall tale was first created in Minnesota in the mid 1950s. Almost 30 years later, our hero crossed the border into Canada, where the Thunder Bay Finns adopted St. Urho’s Day as a cultural institution. Or maybe it’s just a way to escape the winter blahs. Either way, it’s a good reason to celebrate.