Located in the Wisconsin Northwoods, our cultural center has facilities for reunions, receptions and gatherings. Our gift shop holds a large selection of glassware, linens, books, and clothing.
The National Finnish American Festival (NFAF) Cultural Center, known as Little Finland, is located on US Highway 2, just west of US Highway 51 South. The center keeps alive the proud heritage of the many Finnish immigrants who settled in the Hurley area. Its purpose is to foster a cultural center and to preserve the Finn's rich heritage through song, dance, and ethnic foods.
The inspiration for Little Finland began with two women. Irene Nevala and Gertie Kaari attended a festival at the University of Wisconsin and came back with the dream to build a cultural center in the Wisconsin Northwoods.
The purpose in organizing the NFAF was to further the economic development of the group and to establish family style entertainment for tourists as well as local citizens and to promote the rich heritage and culture brought here by our parents and grandparents. The efforts of Professor Robert Gard, Professors Matilda and James Schwalbach and Michael Warlum, who did his PhD thesis on the Festival, helped the dream become a reality.
In June, 1964, a Montreal, Wisconsin, mine building, called a "dry" was leased to hold a museum, restaurant and theater. Artifacts, tools, crafts, linens, jewelry and other Finnish items were collected and catalogued. The Finnish embassy supplied photographs. An early Finnish-American home display was set up. Dry round bread hung from a post near the ceiling by the stove.
An authentic sauna was built complete with a mannequin holding a towel over her arm. A carpet loom was set up and weaving was demonstrated. When the exhibit opened on July 15, 1964, hundreds of people flocked to attend. Between July and September, 1964, over 5,000 people went through the museum.
During this time period, the NFAF purchased three acres of land from Sulo Kaari, and the Les Taipale family donated eight acres of adjoining land. A Duluth, Minnesota, architect, Jerry Jyring, drew up the plans for a large complex, donating his services to the group. The logs for the Heritage Center came from the iron ore docks in Ashland, Wisconsin, when the ore docks were disassembled in the middle 1960's.