A festival to celebrate Finland is being held in Minnesota this weekend

Minnesota and Finland have a special connection.
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A festival to celebrate all things Finnish is being held in Minneapolis this weekend. 

FinnFest USA is an annual festival that includes art, music, food, and educational programs to highlight Finland and Finnish-Americans. 

But this year's festival is extra special. 

It marks the centennial of Finland becoming an independent nation from Russia back in 1917. (Finland 100 events are being held across the globe, including a traveling sauna – pronounced “SOW-na" – that's going around the U.S.

This year's festival includes a concert by VocalEssence, and an all-Finnish performance by the Minnesota Orchestra, directed by Finland-native Osmo Vänskä.

There's also a tori (a Finnish marketplace); dancing; bus tours; a visit from Joulupukki (Finnish Santa Claus); as well as different seminars where people can learn more about Finland, its national language, and the country's deep connections to Minnesota.

Most events are held at Orchestra Hall and the nearby Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. For a full schedule of everything that's going on, click here. And to register for the event (prices range depending on what you want to do), click here

Minnesota is really Finnish

It's only fitting that the annual FinnFest USA celebration is returning to Minneapolis (where the first one was held) this year to mark Finland's centennial.

Minnesota is home to more Finnish-Americans than any other state, with over 100,000 Minnesotans declaring Finnish ancestry, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

And, according to Finland's president, Minnesota is "one of the most important areas of Finnish immigration into the United States."

For more on Finns impact on Minnesota, check out this MPR News story or this MNopedia article

Minnesota gets a very special visitor

To mark Finland 100, Minnesota is getting a special visit from Finland's President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio.

“It’s not hyperbole to say this is a significant honor and auspicious occasion for Minnesota,” Anne Ulseth, spokeswoman for the festival, told the Pioneer Press.

Minneapolis is the only Finnish-America community President Niinistö will visit to celebrate Finland 100, Tri County News says

He dropped the (ceremonial) puck at Thursday night's Minnesota Wild game; gave a speech at the Economic Club of Minnesota on Friday afternoon; and he'll attend that all-Finnish program put on by the Minnesota Orchestra.

On Saturday Niinistö will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Minnesota, a news release says

“The degree recognizes not only President Niinistö’s esteemed career, but also the deep connections the University of Minnesota and the State of Minnesota have with Finland and the Finnish people," U of M President Eric Kaler said in the release. 

This is Niinistö’s first honorary degree from an American university.

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