After 85 years, Laskiainen, Finnish festival, will see some changes

Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 4:13 PM CST
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AURORA, MN. -- Laskiainen, or the Finnish Sliding Festival, returned this weekend for its 85th year in Aurora.

“It has always been fun, it changed a lot for various reasons, but it has always been fun,” said Geraldine Kangas, who volunteers at the Loon Lake Community Center Museum.

This Finnish tradition has taken root in Aurora, Minnesota, bringing alive decades-old traditions, including the icy slide.

“Laskiainen means going down, you’re sliding into Lent,” said Kangas. “It’s really a Finnish Mardi Gras, that’s what Laskiainen is. Sliding is a part of the folklore that the farther you slide down, the longer your flax will grow.”

After 85 years of tradition, Laskiainen has seen its fair number of changes, including the retirement of one of its most important organizers, Vivian Williams.

“Vivian has been involved here for several years now, but now she has gotten some illnesses, and her age, and it has gotten too much for her,” Kangas said.

Williams’ dedication to Laskiainen kept the Finnish traditions going year after year.

“I have been coming here, we are a third-generation family,” said Crystal Royer, who was enjoying time with her family on the slide. “My parents immigrated from Finland, so it has just been a part of our culture growing up.”

Although this was Williams’ last year before heading into retirement, her work still brings smiles to everyone’s faces while they play in the snow.

“It was really fun,” said Mya Lossing, who was enjoying the snow. “Mom screamed the whole way down so that was extra funny and scary.”

It’s an event that will continue to bring families out for generations to come.

“Being that Vivian hasn’t been here, but today and yesterday, I am amazed at seeing all these new faces,” Kangas said.