St Urho Day
The St. Urho's Day Dinner is held to honor all people with Finnish heritage living in the Rio Grande Valley.
Since 2013, Sandie Cronin of Forbes, Minnesota, has been the emcee of the St. Urho's Day Dinner at Trophy Gardens in Alamo. The event is held to honor all people with Finnish heritage living in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I am unsure of how many Finnish people there are in the Valley,” she says. “But I do know there is a large number that come down as Winter Texans in the many parks and some who have become permanent residents. We have had attendees from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alberta and various provinces of Canada.” The dinner is mainly sponsored by volunteers, who help with planning. “I encourage people to come forward with new ideas for the dinner.”
Historically, Finnish people came to the United States during the 20th century. On May 24, 1956, a group of Finns in northern Minnesota had the first gathering honoring their legendary saint, St. Urho. In the 1970s, the day was officially changed to March 16 to compete for fame with another patron saint commonly celebrated in the middle of March. The legend of St. Urho traces back only to the 1950s (and to Minnesota), but not to be outdone by tales of the Irish saint’s feat of ridding the Emerald Isle of snakes, true believers will tell you that Urho drove the grasshoppers out of Finland (though the earliest versions of the legend suggest frogs were the object of his wrath instead). Statues of St. Urho have been erected in both Menaga, Minnesota and Finland, Minnesota.
According to Cronin, in 1975, Minnesota's Governor Wendell Anderson officially proclaimed St. Urho's Day on March 16 and every year thereafter celebrations have been held all across the United States and Canada. “Finns get together to have fun, celebrate their heritage and the legend of their patron.”
For over 30 years, in the Rio Grande Valley, Winter Texans of Finnish descent and their friends have gathered for a dinner. In 2013, Arnie Heikkila, a Winter Texan from Duluth, Minnesota, who had been the MC for the group, handed the reigns to Sandie Cronin. Each year, groups of 70 to 100 Finns and their friends and family gather to share a variety of entertainment like music, stories or jokes of their Finnish heritage.
This year's dinner will be held at noon, March 16, at Harold's Country Kitchen at 2111 E. Business Hwy 83 in Donna. Reservations are not required. The dinner purchase includes your entree, beverage & dessert. An addition to this year's gathering is a challenge to see who arrives with the best St. Urho's Day Hat. “Finns in the Valley spread the word, bring your family and friends, wear green and purple and join the fun celebrating the Finnish heritage and St. Urho, a hero for chasing those grasshoppers out of Finland and saving the grapes.”
For more information on the annual RGV St. Urho's Dinner can be found on Facebook.com/rgvsturhosday on Facebook or contact Sandie Cronin at 218.780.6394.
By Rolf Otto Niederstrasser