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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Happy Dog Days of Summer, everyone!

Sisu has had a wonderful first 6 months, visiting people and places in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Thank you again to all the folks involved in organizing the events and activities for the visits. You know who you are! Everyone else, feel free to check out earlier blog posts to find out who these outstanding people are. Feel free to thank them, too!

Recapping the first 6 months:

-10,000 miles travelled
-800 people enjoying sauna
-average sauna temperature 180 F; 160 F low, 270+ F high…
-estimated several thousands connected at events
-support from the Embassy of Finland in the United States
-meeting Ambassador Kauppi 4 times
-another 6 months to go

Our sponsors deserve a special recognition. We can’t thank them enough for making the Traveling Sauna campaign possible. Feel free to reach out to them, too!

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

So, what are the most memorable moments from the first half?

We can remember how some Central American latino gang members ended up on the sauna benches. We can also remember a visit to Hollywood, how surreal it felt to chase a log home built on a pickup truck up and down a mountain pass, how a violinist decided to perform Finlandia in the sauna without a shirt on, the faces of people when Batman walked by in Mesa, AZ, how a cameraman in Portland got shirtless in the sauna and the anchor ladies in the newsroom went totally off track, a 3-yr old serenading sauna songs, a tiny house enthusiast wondering “where’s the kitchen?”. Some of these memories have been shared in the blog or on social media. Some of them will remain off the books, for obvious reasons...

While it is a known fact that a number of us travel to Finland in the summer, the Traveling Sauna crew is keeping busy, working on creating new memories for all of us.

In July, you can find Sisu at events and places around Detroit, Michigan. We are also working on adding stops to the fall schedule. We have several new events in the works; in the Boston area, in the Carolinas, in Tennessee, in the D.C. area, and with our sponsors. We’ll post the dates and places on our website as soon as they are confirmed.

Please contact us at your earliest convenience if you want Sisu to stop by. Now’s the time to lock in the dates!

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, July 6, 2017

Summer in the Northland

The latter half of June takes Sisu first to Wisconsin and, then, via Wisconsin, to Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, Wisconsin is and open air museum, operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. In the museum, the staff members dress up in era costumes, and work at the museum sites as interpreters and as if they lived on the location. The area consists of an 1800’s village and several farmsteads, including the Finnish Ketola and Rankinen farms.  Today, Old World Wisconsin’s historic farm and village buildings comprise the world’s largest museum dedicated to the history of rural life.

Sisu spent a wonderful day at the Ketola farm, by the old, 100-year old Ketola smoke sauna. The day started with a private breakfast event, where the breakfast was made in the main building by the staff, and included traditional Finnish breakfast items, pannukakku for dessert, and, of course, coffee. As a special bonus, we toasted with locally made sahti! Sisu was heated for the breakfast attendees. The reviews were very positive!

When the gates opened for the public at 10am, the staff started heating the Ketola savusauna. Smoke-a-plenty throughout the day!

Thank you, Old World Wisconsin and staff for the experience!

From Eagle, a short hop to Milwaukee, to spend the next two days, June 18-19, with the Finnish American Society in Milwaukee.

The picnic to celebrate Finland 100 in Milwaukee was at a gorgeous location, Juneau Park, right in downtown Milwaukee.

Juneau Park attracts downtown residents for a stroll in the park, offering great views over Lake Michigan. Sisu had a great time, entertaining sauna enthusiasts from Chicago to Cedarburg. FAS Milwaukee offered musical entertainment, snacks, goodies from Finland, and, do we need to mention it?, a beer garden.

To add to the festivities, a Proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Milwaukee was presented, declaring June 18-19, 2017 "The Finnish American Society of Milwaukee Suomi 100 Centennial & Sisu Traveling Sauna Exhibit Days". Well done!

Milwaukee may be known for beer and bratwurst but, after visiting, Sisu knows that there is also a vibrant Finnish community to connect with!

Thank you, Linda Pensala & FAS Milwaukee!

Upper Peninsula Michigan, from hereon “UP”, sports 100,000 Finns among its population of 300,000. Do not throw sauna rocks here!

On the way to the Copper Country Midsummer 3-Day Festival, “Juhannus”, Sisu stopped at Metsa Machines in Merrill, Wisconsin. Metsa specializes in importing farm logging and wood splitting equipment from Finland, brands such as Japa and Nokka. Owners are Patrick Taylor and Bob Nelson.

It rained for most of the day when Sisu visited Metsa but other than that, the visit was most delightful! Sisu was greeted with excitement upon arrival. Then, the visitors started pouring in; a small town pastor with family roots in Finland, a former exchange student to Finland with her family, people actually speaking Finnish! To top things off, Channel 6 from Rheinlander, WI featured the visit in their evening news!

Metsa Machines is proud to represent Finnish brands in the Northland!

Hanka Homestead in the UP is not what you’d call “On the Beaten Path”. You really have to make an effort to get there. Last mile is on gravel and when Sisu noticed the “No turnaround for large vehicles” sign, it was apparent that, one way or another, the visit to Hanka would be a memorable one.

Juhannus at Hanka Homestead turned out to be a blast! Wonderful weather, larger than expected crows, and a visit from Ambassador Kauppi. Hanka Homestead is a “must” for all interested in the history of homesteads and immigration in the south shore of the Mighty Lake Superior.

Can you spot a Finnabego in this picture?
After Hanka, the Juhannus in the Copper Country was celebrated at the Finlandia University in downtown Hancock, Michigan, at Agate Beach 125th Juhannus Kokko, and at Bruce Crossing, Michigan. Each location added its own flavor to the festivities but there was no mistaking. This is as close as it gets to a Mid Summer in Finland!

A big thank you to Honorary Consul Jim Kurtti, Finnish American Reporter Editor Dave Maki, and everyone in the Copper Country. Until next time!

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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Early June took Sisu to northern Minnesota for a 10-day tour. This area is known for a large concentration of Finns. They say that if you throw a sauna rock any direction here, you are likely to hit a Finn. Or, three.

First on the agenda was a town called Finland, halfway from Duluth towards the Canadian border, on the north shore of Lake Superior. Today, the drive to Finland offers scenic views but when settlers first arrived, there were no roads. Settlers were dropped off a boat to shore.They then carried their belongings to the homesteads. Logging provided work outside of family farming.


The Finland Minnesota Historical Society Heritage Site in Finland offers a wealth of information about the local history. Sisu was so pleased for the opportunity to visit, and recommends including Finland in your north shore itinerary.

A big thank you to Joretta and Dale Nikula for organizing the afternoon get-together.

From Finland, Sisu continued to Duluth. Duluth is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes, and offers a seaport for ocean vessels in the middle of the continent.

In Duluth, Sisu was welcomed by Northland Chapter of Finlandia Foundation. Both the Mayor of Duluth and the Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin declared June “Finland 100 Month” in their respective cities which declarations were read out loud by respective city representatives.

The location was right on Lake Superior, by the boardwalk and beach on the world’s largest lake. Truly fantastic for a sauna and swim!

Thank you, Steve Leppälä and Northland Chapter of Finlandia Foundation.

Next up, National Sauna Day in Embarrass. On it’s third year, the event is starting to get nice traction and attracts a pretty good crowd. The location, Nelimark Museum, is another great example of a heritage site worth visiting.

Three saunas and one Finnabego were on display, main building hosted a gift shop and a coffee room. In the outside area a tent was setup where lunch was available from the grill. All in all, a very nice gathering with quite a few brave souls getting in the 200 F heat in Sisu, on a beautiful summer day.


Musical entertainment was provided by Steve Solkela One Man Band.

Thank you to John Kinnunen and SISU Heritage for a great event. Traveling Sauna crew hopes to revisit next year!

Next three days Sisu traveled around in the Iron Range, visiting Virginia, Hibbing and Giants Ridge in Biwabik. Joining Sisu was Honorary Consul of Finland for the northern Minnesota, James L. Johnson. With Jimmy’s guidance, Sisu learned about the area history and connected with the area Finns.

Mines in the Iron Range needed labor in the early 1900’s, attracting immigrants, including Finns. Finns then got a reputation for participating in the labor and co-op movements. Gus Hall, anyone? Some families scraped together enough money to buy parcels of land to start small family farms. Life was tough but the Finns were tougher!

Today, Finnish heritage is represented by several organizations, such as Knights and Ladies of Kaleva in Virginia, and Hibbing Finns and Friends. Nice, leisurely afternoons were spent in good company with sauna, coffee and pulla.

A big thank you to Jimmy Johnson, Beth Pierce from the Mesabi Iron Range Tourism Bureau, and Bill Aho from Eveleth Super 8 providing lodging for the travelers! “Finnish your day in the Super 8 way!”

Salolampi, the Finnish language summer camp at the Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, MN, was Sisu’s next destination. The staff for all the camps was in orientation in anticipation of the first campers next week, and Sisu wanted to go and check out what’s going on.

As it happened, Sisu’s visit coincided with the last day of orientation. Salolampi already has an indoor and an outdoor sauna by Turtle Lake. Both were heated along with Sisu, and the staff was treated with a 3-sauna conclusion for a busy week of training. What an experience!

And, if three saunas were not enough entertainment, the one and only, Mr. Elvis "Niilo" Pessi serenaded samples from "Greatest Elvis Sauna Hits" all evening long, including "Sauna House Rock",  "It's Hot in Here, Right Mama?" and everybody's favorite, "Thank You for the Sauna"!


The Concordia Language Villages offers summer camps in multiple languages; Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, German, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, you-name-it. A wonderful resource for those interested in world cultures and languages.

Last on the trip were stops in Menahga, New York Mills and St Anthony Village.


Menahga hosts a statue of St Urho in front of the Menahga Area Historical Society and Museum. Sisu stopped for a photo-op upon arrival and was immediately greeted by the museum staff. A quick tour of the museum provided another opportunity to learn about local history.

The Cultural Center in New York Mills hosts the Great American Think Off which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Invited to kick-off the event, Sisu couldn’t be more thrilled! Good times, great company.

Last on the tour was St Anthony Village, which is a first ring suburb to Minneapolis and St Paul. St Anthony Village maintains an active connection with its sister city Salo. Cultural exchanges, visits and correspondence is continuous between these two cities and their sister city volunteers.

Thank you Dick Baso, Betsy Roder from the Cultural Center in New York Mills, Karen Wiemeri and Ruth Ann Marks from St Anthony / Salo Sister Cities for hosting Sisu!

Next opportunity to see Sisu on the road: Old World Wisconsin in Eagle, WI June 17, and Juneau Park in Milwaukee, WI, June 18-19.

Would you like to host a Sisu visit? Please get in touch!

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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Month of May

As the spring was turning into summer in the Upper Midwest, Sisu’s schedule was filled with appearances in and around the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St Paul, MN metro area).

Finland and the Upper Midwest share a similar climate with four seasons. In May, nature wakes up after a long winter. Spring flowers bloom, trees get their leaves back, turtles climb on logs to warm in the sun, lawnmowers are hauled out from garages…

May 9, Sisu hung out with the crowd going to a concert at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Then, on May 10, Sisu headed to Uponor in Apple Valley, MN, one of the Traveling Sauna sponsors.

Uponor manufactures PEX tubing, used in plumbing, and floor heating systems. On May 10, Uponor held a Community Day to announce their $14 million expansion to the facility. Participating in the festivities were management from Uponor Corporate in Finland, Mayor of Apple Valley and members from the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce. Groundbreaking for the expansion is scheduled for June 6, 2017. Congratulations, Uponor!

Another Traveling Sauna sponsor recently announcing a major investment in the US is Nokian Tyres who in early May released the news of their $360 million investment in a new tire factory and distribution center in Tennessee. Congratulations, Nokian Tyres! Come check out Nokian tires on Sisu on the tour!

Saturday, May 13, Sisu joined FinnSisu and Finnleo at FinnSisu's Spring Sale and Mother's Day celebration. Visitors were greeted with great deals on saunas. Refreshments and cake were available throughout the day. Check out the Traveling Sauna Facebook post for a special, dynamic duo appearance!

Next on the agenda was a trip to Chicago and Cedarburg, WI. For this trip, the Traveling Sauna was happy to host a special guest copilot, Tom Legg. Tom and Chief Sauna Marshal Jouko have known each other for over 25 years. Sisu was in good hands!

The Chicago visit included stops in the suburbs of Wilmette, Barrington and Evanston. While the weather was rather gloomy, the spirits were high and good times were had. Sauna yoga, serenading, all in all, a great week end!

Thank you Anne and Reed Stevens, Katie and Tony Johansson, Chip Covington, and Brett at the American Legion Post 42 for hosting! This song is for you!


Cedarburg, WI is a suburb of Milwaukee, WI. Mikko Hilvo, Manager at the City Parks and Rec, had arranged for Sisu to be at the municipal pool the day before the pool opened for the season.

CBS 58 Morning Reporter Michael Schlezinger insisted on having the first dibs on löyly. Chief Sauna Marshal Jouko gladly obliged. Watch the video clips of the broadcast.

After the TV crew cleared, it was time for the local sauna aficionados to get in. Sisu remained hot until it was time to pack up and head to Washington House Inn for the night.

Washington House Inn is a quaint B & B right on Washington Avenue, and comped a place for the tired crew for the night. If you are in the Cedarburg area, Sisu recommends the friendly Washington House Inn. Great location, wonderful proprietors, good sleep!

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States and is observed on the last Monday in May. Equivalent in the Finnish calendar is Kaatuneiden Muistopäivä which is observed on the third Sunday in May.

To honor the veterans, the Cokato Finnish American Historical Society traditionally arranges a program at the Finnish Pioneer Park, also known as Temperance Corner, over the week end. Sisu was proud to participate in the program in 2017, and to bring along in a segment of Finland's Centennial.

The park includes a 1896 temperance hall, a 1899 one-room schoolhouse, a 1866 log cabin from one of the area's first settlers, and the 1868 Barberg–Selvälä–Salmonson Sauna, which is believed to be the oldest savusauna in the United States.

The Cokato Finnish American Historical Society holds several annual events at the Pioneer Park, including observances of Finnish holidays like Juhannus and Pikkujoulu. Tours of the historical buildings are available by appointment.

If you recall, Sisu’s first trip was to the Barberg–Selvälä–Salmonson Sauna in January. Hello again, vanha lajitoveri!

Contrary to local gossip and innuendo, Sisu did not get pulled over! Yes, the Wright County Sheriff was there in force (two patrol cars) but, for the record, no tickets were issued. Anything about tickets, traffic violations or hand cuffs is fake news!


Sunday, May 28, Finnleo sponsored a Sauna and Swim at Camp Chi Ro on Lake Sylvia in Annandale, MN. The sauna was warm, the lake wasn’t… We need to wait a couple of days yet for the swimming season to start in Minnesota.

June 1 through 10, Sisu will be in northern Minnesota: Finland, Duluth, Embarrass, Virginia, Hibbing, Biwabik, Salolampi Language Village, Menahga, New York Mills, St Anthony Village. You know where to find the calendar. Everybody on-board / in the sauna!

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.