Hancock’s Heikki Lunta, photo by Mark Riutta / Defined Visuals
I know that many folks in southern Michigan are wondering where the heck all this snow came from. Last night I realized that a friend of mine was actually responsible!
Yooper Steez tells the Legend of Finnish snow god Heikki Lunta:
The name is now often associated with an annual winter festival in Negaunee, but it’s creation is linked to an annual snowmobile race held in Atlantic Mine. In 1970, the U.P. was having one of those winters where it doesn’t snow as much as we might like, which was threatening the success of the race. To increase support, radio salesman David Riutta wrote the “Heikki Lunta Snow Dance Song.” This song created the fictional Heikki Lunta as a creature that lived in the backwoods of Tapiola, twenty miles south of Houghton, and would perform a dance to make it snow. The song went on U.P. airwaves and was a success, and incidentally it did snow that year, causing the snowmobile race to be postponed on account of too much snow.
The song gained popularity enough to be mentioned on “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show,” and the radio salesman was even invited to sing the song for winter events in California.
As anyone who has been through an Upper Peninsula winter knows, the snow can become relentless, and by the end of that winter, Riutta wrote “Heikki Lunta Go Away,” which is now often paired with the initial song.
The name Heikki Lunta comes from the Finnish translation of the name Hank Snow, like the popular country and western singer.
Read on for more including videos of the Heikki Lunta Song by Da Yoopers and also see Heikki Lunta – A Modern Copper Country Folk Hero at Pasty.com. If you want to go in depth, Hilary Virtanen presents a detailed and fascinating history of this distinctly Yooper phenomenon from 1970 to the present day with press clippings and more in Not Just Talking About the Weather: Tradition, Social Change and Heikki Lunta (use the dates on the left to navigate).
View Mark’s photo bigger and see his work at Defined Visuals on Facebook.
PS: When he’s not making it snow, Adam is also a fantastic photographer. See his work, some of which is potentially NSFW depending on where you work, at brockit.com.
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