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St. Urho starts this weekend

The crowning of St. Urho royalty is the highlight of the weekend as the "Nytes of St. Urho" bow to royalty. (Enterprise file photo)

BY Anna Erickson

The legend of St. Urho originated in northern Minnesota in the 1950s; however, there are differing opinions as to whether it began with the fables created by Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji or the tongue-in-cheek tales told by Richard Mattson of Virginia.

Either way, the legend has grown among North Americans of Finnish descent to the point where St. Urho is known and celebrated across the U.S. and Canada, and even in Finland.

Menahga will host the St. Urho’s Day event starting Friday, March 15.

St. Urho Day is typically celebrated on March 16, the day prior to the better-known feast of some minor saint from Ireland, who allegedly drove the snakes from that island.

According to legend, St. Urho chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!” This roughly translates into “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”

His feast is celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green. St. Urho is nearly always represented with grapes and grasshoppers as part of the picture.

Nowhere is the celebration more festive than in Menahga, self-declared “Home of St. Urho.”

Events start at 7 p.m. with the opening ceremonies to honor past St. Urho kings and queens and crowning of the 2013 St. Urho King and Queen at the high school.

At 7:30 p.m., Tina & Lena, a comedy and singing variety show will entertain audiences.

The VFW is dishing up a corn beef and meatball supper at 5 p.m.

A pancake breakfast will be served Saturday, March 16 from 7 to 11 a.m. at the Senior Center. A freewill offering will be accepted.

A volleyball tournament begins at 9 a.m. at the school gymnasium.

At noon, the Nytes of St. Urho march to the St. Urho statue and pay respects to the Finnish saint by participating in a playful twist on the “changing of the guards.”

A short parade follows, at 12:20 p.m. from Cottage House Café along Main Street to the west.

Kids dog sled rides will be given from 1-3 p.m. by Janet Bahe at the Menahga Football Field.

The annual bar stool race and “kolf” will start at 1 p.m. at the Spirit Lake beach.

The Menahga VFW will serve mojakka from 5-7 p.m. Saturday.

The second annual Mojakka Potluck/Cook-off will be from noon-2 p.m. Sunday, March 17 at the Menahga Community Center. The event is sponsored by the Menahga Area Museum and includes a silent auction and bake sale.

St. Urho buttons and t-shirts are available at local businesses.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561