Last weekend I meandered a desolate, snow-blown road about an hour north to attend the cultural phenomenon known as the Laskiainen Sliding Festival in Palo, Minn. It’s the 78th year for this event, which celebrates all things Finnish. I sold my novels at a table. I had such a good time when I was invited to sell books there a few years ago that I went back.
Laskiainen is a bring-your-own-sled experience that is held at a community center on the shores of a lake. It provides the perfect place for thousands of Fins from far and wide to slide down the hill in the back of the center onto the lake ice. The farther one slides, the taller one’s flax will grow next summer, or so the story goes.
Inside the center are rooms filled with vendors, food providers, and a Finnish museum. I got into the event late, so my table was out in a hallway, but it was great for people watching. Rosy-cheeked cherubic children in snowmobile suits passed by along with a plethora of adults, dressed mainly in camouflage (pink camo for the ladies), plaid, fur hats, fur trooper hats, plaid trooper hats, and Carhartt gear (a brand of heavy cotton work clothes). There were even several plaid snowmobile suits. A few people passed my table wearing North Face jackets, but you just know they were visiting relatives.
My table was next to some folks who sold furniture (rustic benches and tables) made of cedar, ash, and other heavenly smelling wood. I sold a few books and had lots of conversations with people who live in the forest and hadn’t talked to anyone in a week, maybe two. An elderly yet sprightly lady from a Finnish newspaper booth a few tables down spoke Finnish-English to me for about half an hour, and we did our best to communicate — about what, I’m still not entirely sure, but she did seem to like the cover of my “Eye of the Wolf” novel, which sports – you guessed it – an eye of a wolf.
Talk about Minnesota Nice – it was the type of event where a vendor can leave their table for a potty break and not worry about anyone stealing their wares; an event where the organizers write vendors thank you notes for attending and don’t ask for any payment; where old friends meet and high school classmates reconnect.
The event organizers assure me it is the longest-running Finnish festival in America. May it run (or in this case, slide) for many more. And may their flax grow tall.