Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Great and Grand Finale

About a week prior to arriving in Washington D.C., Sisu was notified that the D.C. authorities weren’t very excited to have a large, wooden box with fire inside at the Embassy Centennial event in the middle of Dupont Circle. Change of plans. Let’s just head straight to the Embassy of Finland and add some sauna time!

Saturday morning, December 2. The Sauna Bosses get up early for the big finale. A little ahead of schedule, shall we say. No butterflies, but... Change of plans #2. Photo shoots around the White House, etc., anyone? Maybe Mr. President is home and interested in some sauna diplomacy?

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s go back a week and to Florida.

Sister City Sauna in Boynton Beach was as warm as expected. Mid-80’s temps and wonderful people celebrating the newly formed sister city connection with Rauma, Finland. Mayor Steve Grant test drove Sisu and, to cool off, dipped in the Intracoastal. USASuomeksi came and did a couple of really nice interviews.

Thank you, Jeanne Heavilin and the Boynton Beach Sister City association for the great afternoon.

Following Boynton Beach, Sisu visited Suomi-Talo in Lantana. Sisu was made available for sauna time while Jouko gave a presentation of the trip to the full house. A photo op provided by the one-and-only, Mr. Eino Grön, was a nice surprise!

Suomi-Talo is a wonderful resource and the people running it welcome you to visit. Thank you, Sirpa and Ari Aho, et. al., for letting Sisu to stop by!

Click this link to read more about Suomi-Talo and its wonderful hosts.

Fast forward to D.C. and December. Plans to visit the White House didn’t work out. Since the co-pilots’ last visits, security around the building apparently has been increased. No problem. Washington D.C. is full of attractions, and opportunities for sightseeing are a plenty. Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, here we come!

It was time to head to the Embassy. Upon arrival, Risto stopped the caravan on Massachusetts Ave NW and turned on the blinkers to gauge how to get in to the front yard of the Embassy. Before he even got out of the truck there were five (5) police cars behind Sisu! Eh, no stopping at or around the Naval Observatory, the Residence of the Vice President?

It turned out the police presence was most helpful. They cordially stopped all traffic and assisted (encouraged) Sisu to move in. Quickly!

Quick stats from the event at the Embassy:

*Sauna from Saturday noon until Wednesday 5pm, total of 48 hours.
*180 people booked a sauna vs. 185 available spots.
*One fellow who already had sauna in Oberlin, OH came again!
*One lucky son who had not seen Sisu yet, because of being in Thailand as an exchange student, got to sauna twice!
*19 bundles of wood burned, the ash tray emptied only 2 times. Kastor heaters are pretty darn efficient.

Sisu thanks Ambassador Kauppi and the Embassy staff for supporting the Traveling Sauna throughout the year, and for having Sisu at the Embassy on the 6th. What an honor to end the tour with you!

To commemorate the occasion, a Sauna Guest Book with close to 1,000 greetings was presented to Ambassador.

As if all this wasn't enough, Sisu was honored in a very special way. In his greeting to Finland December 6, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mentioned Sisu and gave praise to the practice of "sauna diplomacy". Just call us, Mr. Secretary of State, and we'll be there!

What can we say? You folks enabled this all to happen!

Thank you for organizing your events nation wide and inviting Sisu to be part of your celebrations! You know who you are. Give yourselves a big thumbs up!

*20,000 miles
*35 states
*70 stops with 102 days of events
*150+ volunteers helping Sisu on the way
*1,400 people taking the sauna
*1,000 signatures in the Guest Book (presented to Ambassador Kauppi December 6)
*20,000 people checking Sisu out, unknown number who saw Sisu at events or on the road
*Numerous articles in local papers, papers in Finland, the New Yorker
*Millions of viewers on Youtube, local US media, media in Finland

Finally, a big and heartfelt THANK YOU to all Sisu’s sponsors:

RCP Software
Rowing Performance
Uponor USA
Nokian Tyres
Juska Law
Ice Cold Crime
Providence Private Client Services

Suomi Finland 100
North American Sauna Society
International Sauna Association
Finnish American Heritage Center
FinnFest USA
Concordia Language Villages
Salolampi Language Village
Salolampi Foundation
Finlandia Foundation National


December 13, 2017
Jouko Sipila & Risto Sivula

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

The Centennial of Finland’s Independence Year is drawing to a close. December 6 is on the radar for all of us. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents endured to give us this gift.

Sisu is thankful for all the support it has received during the Centennial Year. It has been such a blast to connect with all of you, share moments with you, and string together events you have organized all across the United States.

Our sponsors. Please let them know how much you appreciate their support.

RCP Software
Rowing Performance
Nokian Tyres
Juska Law
Ice Cold Crime
Providence Private Client Services

Suomi Finland 100
North American Sauna Society
International Sauna Association
Finnish American Heritage Center
FinnFest USA
Concordia Language Villages
Salolampi Language Village
Salolampi Foundation
Finlandia Foundation National

Our event hosts. You folks deserve all the kudos you can get! Thank you for letting Sisu to stop by and/or be part of your event!

Finnsource - Minna Hovinen, Honorary Consul Marianne Wargelin
University of Arkansas - Peter MacKeith
Finnish Language School in Dallas - Leila Jäämuru & staff
Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Houston - Mari Emaus, Tuija Kalpala
Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, MN - Valpuri Remling
Phoenix Area Finn Club - Leena & Olli Tuomi, Joy Dorvinen
Consulate of Finland in L.A. - Suvi Aherto
Ridgecrest Flying Aces - Olli Leppälä
Mr. Sauna Jukka Dudeson
Albany Sauna & Hot Tubs - Frederika Adam & staff
Nordic Innovation House - Thuong Tan
Battle Ground, WA Finn Club - Bunny McElveny
Tiny Digs Hotel - Pam Westra
Nordic Heritage Museum - Eric Nelson
Idaho Finns - Donald Heikkila, Tuula Ezzell
Missoula Nordic Club - Jenni Rohrbach, Jenna McVey
Mountain Hot Tub, Bozeman, MT - Ben Rainey
Hjemkomst Center / Red River Finns - Ellen Liddle, Markus Krueger
American Swedish Institute - Scott Pollock
FinnSisu - Ahvo Taipale
Chicago Area Finns - Tony Johannson
City of Cedarburg - Mikko Hilvo
Cokato Finnish American Historical Society - Harvey Barberg
Finland, MN Historical Society - Joretta Nikula
Duluth Area Finns - Steve Leppala, Mimmu Salmela
National Sauna Day, Embarrass, MN - John Kinnunen
Virginia - Hibbing - Giants Ridge, MN - Honorary Consul Jimmy Johnson, Beth Pierce
Concordia Language Villages / Salolampi - Iida Tervola Hultberg
Menahga Finns - St. Urho
Great American Think-off, New York Mills, MN - Betsy Rader
St Anthony Village Sister Cities - Ruth Ann Marks, Karen Wiemeri
Old World Wisconsin - Anna Hope Altschwager
Milwaukee Area Finns - Linda Pensala
Merrill, WI - Metsa Machines
Houghton/Hancock/Bruce’s Crossing Midsummer - Honorary Consul Jim Kurtti
Wixom Finn Camp - Carol Pelto Melancon
Oberlin College / Nord Family Foundation - Greggor Mattson, Tim Scholl
Buffalo, NY Area Finns - Christina Pasternak Saarinen
Camp Pineshore - Jennifer Carrion
Leominster FinnFun Week End - Stan Karro
Cloucester, MA Area Finns - Mark Babson
New England Spas - Norm Coburn
NY Area Finns - Annemarie Hjorth, Eero Kilpi
Hotbox Sauna - Jackie Aude, Paula Wegman
Walters State Community College - Paul Lubotina & staff
City of Spartanburg / Spartanburg Area Finns - Galia Rodriguez, Marko “päivää että pätkähti” Huttunen
Valmet Atlanta - Jukka Virtanen
Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Southeast (Atlanta) - Minna LeVine
Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center - Mary Pyle, Stacy Howell
City of Boynton Beach, FL - Jeanne Heavilin, Mayor Steve Grant
Suomi-Talo, Lantana, FL - Sirpa Aho
Capital Hot Tub, VA & MD - Patty Mahoney
The Embassy of Finland in the United States - Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi & staf

Whoa! What a list that is. Over 100 events in 1 year. Sisu’s been busy!

Kudos to all of you who we have met on the road, via social media, through our website, or this blog. You made this whole trip worth the while! THANK YOU for your support!

Sisu’s full schedule and up-to-date calendar, please click here.

Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, please click here.

Like reading about Sisu’s travels? Please help us bring Sisu to a location near you. Get a souvenir from our web store, or feel free to make a donation.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Gulf of Mexico

While we all are gearing up to the big birthday party on December 6, Sisu still has a few miles to travel, and a couple of more events to visit.

One of the first stops for Sisu was Houston, TX. Only 400 miles east is Ocean Springs, MS. After about 100 events and 16,000 miles on the road, it was time to visit the shores of the Gulf of Mexico again.

In early 2017, Sisu's Logistics and Travel Planning Team was contacted by the staff from the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education. They would be hosting an art exhibit of Osmo Visuri's paintings in the spring, and were wondering if Sisu could stop by. Sisu would be in Montana at the time. Sorry. After further correspondence, another opportunity was found. What if Sisu visited in early November, during the Peter Anderson Arts and Crafts Festival? Stars had aligned and destination Ocean Springs was added to the calendar!

Ocean Springs is a town of about 17,000 people with coffee shops, restaurants, shopping and a laid back feel. Peter Anderson Arts and Crafts Festival is the largest arts festival in Mississippi, attracting 100,000 - 150,000 visitors over the two days. When Sisu arrived, hundreds of vendors were setting up on the streets around downtown Ocean Springs.

This is bayou country. Saturday morning arrived with a thick fog. Soon, sun started to burn off the fog and a 80 F, cloudless day was in forecast.

After the gates opened there was a steady stream of festival goers strolling by. The MaryC had prepared two banners to attract people to visit Sisu. One of them declared the Centennial, the other had 100 fun facts about Finland.

Sisu staff on-site had so much fun! We also learned something! Did you know that Bruce Boudreau (coach of the Minnesota Wild hockey team) is from Ocean Springs, MS? It also turned out that there is (at least) one Finn living in Ocean Springs. Hauska tavata!

As always, time flies when you are having fun! Sunday afternoon, it is time to pack up and head to the next events; Boynton Beach and Suomi-Talo in Lantana, Florida.

Looks like it is starting to fill up but there are still spots left to sauna with the Sister Cities of Boynton Beach and Rauma, book your session from this link, walk-ins are welcome, too. Get your swim suits ready, Florida!

Sisu wants to thank the wonderful staff of theMaryC for letting us visit: Mary Pyle, Stacy Howell, Pat Pinson, et al. If you are traveling in the area, go visit theMaryC & Ocean Springs!

If you want to learn more about the Osmo Visuri exhibit or would like to host it, please get in touch. TheMaryC has the collection and would like to share it with you!

Sisu’s full schedule and up-to-date calendar, please click here.

Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, please click here.

Like reading about Sisu’s travels? Please help us bring Sisu to a location near you. Get a souvenir from our web store, or feel free to make a donation.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tennessee, South Carolina, and heading further South

Kicking off October, Sisu was invited to visit the four campuses of the Walters State Community College during their International Festival. The campuses are in eastern Tennessee, in the towns of Tazewell, Greeneville, Morristown, and Sevierville. This is destination country, folks. History, scenic towns, parks and nature. Dollywood, Appalachian Mountains, President Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett. Go, do you research, and make plans to visit. You have Sisu’s recommendation!

First up was a visit to the Claiborne County campus in Tazewell. Sisu parked in front of the main entrance and was visited by students and staff during breaks. Good conversations, nice atmosphere, a very inviting visit, and Sisu was so happy to be there. Drive from Morristown was quite scenic, too!

Next, Greeneville campus. Again, good times with visiting students and staff. During lunch hour, however, Sisu was up to a big surprise. Campus contact, Marci Nimick, had lined up one of her friends to play guitar and she proceeded to sing bluegrass tunes for us. Unfortunately, the audio didn’t work too well on the video Sisu posted on Facebook. But, if you see Marci listed on any of the local venues, you will want to go check her out! What a treat!

In Morristown and Sevierville, Sisu was warmed up to provide actual sauna. A number of students used the opportunity, even more stopped by to check out what was going on. Sisu likes to visit schools and campuses! Students are not afraid at all to come and chat. Sisu likes chatting with people!

Thank you, Walters State Community College; Eileen Bowers, Paul Lubotina, Marlin Curnutt, Marci Nimick, Erika Stevens, for inviting Sisu to participate in your festival!

From Tennessee, Sisu headed east to Spartanburg, S.C. A most scenic drive which should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even the rest stops on the route are worth mentioning!

Spartanburg International Festival is an annual festival celebrating world nations. For our readers in Minnesota, very similar to the Festival of Nations in St. Paul, MN. Each nation has a booth to display the country, culture and traditions, each nation can participate in the food court, and there’s a stage for performances. Each year, one nation is featured as “the Honored Nation”.

Spartanburg area Finnish Club had negotiated the “Honored Nation” status for Finland this year. What an achievement and an honor! As a result, Finland exhibit was placed at the entrance. Visitors arriving to the festival walked past a statue dressed as Santa, past six (instead of just one) exhibit booths, and Sisu proudly displayed in the center!

When the gates were opened and people started pouring in, the Finland exhibit had a steady stream of visitors. At times, there were lines to the free coffee and pulla (for the record: Chief Sauna Ambassador Risto couldn’t resist the temptation and weaseled a couple of extra pullas during the day…), the exhibits and to check out Sisu. Finland cafe in the food court appeared to be a success, too. Mustikkarahkapiirakka was sold out within the first couple of hours.

Inka Ginther, Marko Huttunen, et. al. at the Finnish Club, you folks have a good thing going. Keep up the good work!

A special thanks to Honorary Consul Todd Wiebush for coming from about an hour-and-a-half away to visit the festival and Finland exhibit.

A very special thank you to the City of Spartanburg / Galia Rodriguez for the great festival and a T-shirt!

From Spartanburg, Sisu hiked over to Atlanta, GA, one of the 12 Finland USA Signature event locations. Organized by the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Southwest, there were business roundtables on Friday, October 13, with Consul General Manu Virtamo attending.

Then, on Saturday, at Wild Heaven Brewery’s cozy patio, Sisu had a great afternoon in 80 degree weather, filled with 40 sauna enthusiasts for the entire afternoon. Approximately 75 people heard Consul General Manu Virtamo’s fantastic speech.

Thank you to Linnea Porter and Minna LeVine as well as Angela Riley and the whole Wild Heaven Brewery crew for hosting us for such a great event.

Sisu’s full schedule and up-to-date calendar, please click here.

Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, please click here.

Like reading about Sisu’s travels? Please help us bring Sisu to a location near you. Get a souvenir from our web store, or feel free to make a donation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New York, finally! Not forgetting MetsaGroup or Nokian Tyres!

Sorry for the long break in the blog postings, dear readers and countrymen. What on earth happened? Why can’t we get regular updates?

Well, as it happened, Traveling Sauna co-pilots had a very important appointment at FinnFest USA in September.

While Sisu couldn't be there, Jouko and Risto met with the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and Mrs. Jenni Haukio. The meeting went well, we can report. There was mutual excitement over the Centennial, and President Niinistö and Mrs. Haukio, of course, received some nice souvenirs to take back home.

Jouko, Mrs. Haukio, President Niinistö, Risto. But, who is who?
By the way, if you are looking to get your own Centennial souvenir/collectible, make sure you check out the Traveling Sauna Shop sooner than later. Stock on some of the items is getting dangerously low.

Now, let’s travel back in time to early September, and to New York. The Bleecker Street Street Fair was a blast! So many people, entertainment, good food, you name it!

Press was there, too:
Huffington Post
YLE Svenska

Next day, Art & Sauna in Brooklyn. Another event where it is not worth us to try and describe what happened, when the press says it so much better! Here's a link to the article in New Yorker.

Thank you, NYC Finns, Annemarie Hjorth, Eero Kilpi, Jackie & Paula!

After New York, Sisu visited the North American headquarters of MetsaGroup in Norwalk, CT. The sales team was in town and so, this was the perfect time to visit!

During lunch, Metsa employees took a break to visit Sisu. Rarely have we had so many people in the sauna at the same time! Maybe once in Dallas, TX? Nice T-shirts, too!

Thank you Metsa for your sponsorship!

After Metsa, Sisu hiked over to Tennessee, to another sponsor event - the new Nokian Tyres US factory groundbreaking. The new factory is a $360 million investment in the town of Dayton, TN to create 400 jobs and start manufacturing world’s best, sustainably manufactured tires in the US.

The entire town was there with the Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam, Nokian Tyres leadership, Dayton, TN city officials, Dayton Fire Chief, Dayton Police Chief, State of Tennessee representatives, and, of course, Sisu with Chief Sauna Ambassador Jouko. For more information, please visit Nokian Tyres website

Just one request from Sisu: Sure there will be a sauna at the new digs in Dayton?

Thank you Nokian Tyres for your sponsorship!

Next up, more Tennessee and a hop over to South Carolina. Stay tuned!

Sisu’s full schedule and up-to-date calendar, please click here.

Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, please click here.

Like reading about Sisu’s travels? You can help us bring Sisu to a location near you. Get a souvenir from our web store, or feel free to make a donation.

Friday, September 1, 2017

East Coast, here I come!

It is now less than 100 days to the big Birthday Party. Syntymäpäiväjuhla in Finnish. Say that fast 10 times! You folks on the East Coast are in luck. Sisu is finally coming your way!

After visiting people and places around the western half of the United States, Wixom FinnCamp Annual Softball Tournament kicked off the 2nd half of the journey for Sisu. Sisu was invited to visit FinnCamp August 11-13.

Detroit Finnish Cooperative Summer Camp Association was founded in 1925 when a group of Finns working in the car factories in Detroit purchased 100 acres on Loon Lake in Wixom, to have a place for their families to spend time in the summer.

What a smart move! Almost 100 years later the association still owns about 2/3 of the original acreage. They have 92 camps (Michigan talk for “cabin”) on the property, a main building, a sauna and a baseball field. The Camp is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Softball Tournament week end proved out to be exactly what it sounds like. 22 teams competing for the trophy, hundreds of campers and visitors enjoying a week end together. The event was magnificently organized with breakfast, lunch and dinner served from the kitchen, refreshments available from multiple locations on the property, and games and activities for kids and families. Sisu was very excited to hang out with the crowd and offer sauna to a number of guests.

Sisu definitely recommends a visit to the FinnCamp and their Annual Softball Tournament. FinnCamp offers a number of guest camps for visitors. Please check availability with FinnCamp.

Thank you, Carol Melancon & crew for inviting Sisu to take part in your wonderful week end!

Monday, August 14 took Sisu to Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. Oberlin is a liberal arts college, known for its music program, and for being the first college in the US to admit both students of all races, and female students.

The college football team was hard at practice but, as the fall semester hadn't started yet, it was a quiet day on the campus otherwise. Which was just perfect as Sisu had people and friends arriving from as far away as Cleveland, OH.

Greggor Mattson and Tim Scholl, our hosts, provided a supply of sausages, snacks and refreshments. What a splendid early afternoon and evening around the grill and in the sauna. Thank you Greggor, Tim and The Nord Family Foundation.

Next on the agenda, a visit to Buffalo, NY. The drive from Oberlin to Buffalo follows the south shore of Lake Erie. A short stretch is spent traveling through Pennsylvania, before entering New York state. In NY, the freeway is all of a sudden flanked by vineyards. Concord grape for juice, jams and jellies.

In Buffalo, Sisu is hosted by Christina and Lasse Saarinen. Both avid rowers, the West Side Rowing Club facility offered a spectacular setting for an evening of sauna, right on the Niagara River, with the Peace Bridge to Canada less than a mile away.

The Niagara River is a pretty fast flowing river. There is a narrow canal on the US side at the Rowing Club, protected by a pier. This must be where the rowers practice, wondered Sisu. Or, maybe, out on the lake? Anyway, another fun evening with friends and family. In addition to the view, both Sisu and the plentiful potluck table received rave reviews!

After Buffalo, Sisu had two days to get to the Boston area for the August 18-20 weekend events. Good to have some extra time once in a while, as it appeared that every bridge and underpass on I-90 was restricted to one lane. Some kind of an inspection program, suspected Sisu. But, on every bridge in the entire state of NY at the same time? Oh well, having been raised in Minnesota, Sisu knows that, for certain things, summer is short.

It was time to switch drivers. Jouko flew in, and Risto back home.

It was a very peaceful hour-plus drive for Jouko to get to Westminster, Massachusetts. We had been invited to Camp Pineshore (or Camp Mantyranta) for an evening of saunas as the camp did not have one of its own. We had a wonderful evening of saunas and swimming, combined with hot dogs and brats in a beautiful setting and weather.

From there on Friday, Sisu drove to Leominster / Fitchburg, MA area for the Finnfunn weekend at the Leominster Doubletree Hilton hotel. The festival had about 200 attendees, with approximately 40 ending up taking a sauna, including Deputy Ambassador Antti Vänskä from the DC.

But, the highlight of the weekend was the group led by Mika Lassila. After touring the country for 8 months and 16,000 miles, we had thought we had seen everything, but no. Mika and friends brought a large tub on the back of a pickup and parked it next to Sisu and filled it with ice and cold water – Traveling Sauna meets Traveling Ice Bath. A group of about 10 bathers took turns going from the sauna to the ice bath and back. Many times.

Thank you to Joe and Linda Byrne for providing a bedroom in their gorgeous home and Stan Karro for making all the arrangements for the weekend. We felt really welcomed in this famous Finnish immigrant town.

On Sunday, Sisu traveled to Cape Ann to Lanesville (Gloucester, MA) for an afternoon of sauna and lectures at the Lanesville Community Center. The really great thing about the tour is finding all these pockets of Finnish neighborhoods where Finnish heritage and saunas are truly appreciated. We had a full schedule of saunas from the 120 people who attended the event. Thank you very much to Mark Babson for setting everything up.

On Monday Sisu traveled to New England Spas for a two week show and tell by their showroom. It has been a hit already there. Thanks to Norm Coburn for inviting us.

The tour continues on September 9th in New York City and 10th in Brooklyn. Come say hello!

Sisu’s full schedule and up-to-date calendar, please click here.

Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, please click here.

Like reading about Sisu’s travels? You can help us bring Sisu to a location near you. Get a souvenir from our web store, or feel free to make a donation.