Heikki Lunta focus of talk

HANCOCK – No matter what kind of grudge one might hold against a snow god after the past week, there’s no denying Heikki Lunta’s place in local culture.

Hilary Virtanen, a Ph.D. candidate in folklore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Finnish American Heritage Center public programming coordinator, gave a lecture on Heikki Lunta’s history and meaning Thursday night at the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Heikki Lunta’s story began in 1970 with Dave Riutta, an airtime salesman for WMPL and a musician. Riutta was working on an advertisement for a snowmobile race in South Range, which was being threatened by low snowfall.

Within an hour, Riutta had grabbed a beat-up guitar and laid down “Heikki Lunta’s Snow Dance Song.”

“Immediately following this recording, the song was played on the radio, and the phone at the radio station began to ring off the hook,” she said. “This song, an advertisement for a snowmobile race, had struck a chord. It was in our dialect, with our own names, and … it tied to deeply held beliefs about our identity.”

Lunta’s name was a “Finnishized” tribute to country singer Hank Snow.