WEST PARIS — Oxford Hills will host the premiere American performance of Keiketys, a folk dance club from Kuhmo, Finland, in June.

Dale Piirainen of West Paris, president of the Finnish-American Heritage Society of Maine, said the group of about 20 is joining 30 members of the Piirainen Family Association planning their first trip as a group to visit family members in West Paris and the Oxford Hills area.

Keiketys has performed throughout Europe, as well as in Brisbane, Australia, in 2009. This is their first visit to America, Piirainen said.

The dancers asked if they could “tag along” with the Piirainen Family Association and give free dance performances for local residents, he said.

“We are very excited to announce that Keiketys and A’chording to Kantele, our local kantele performers, will be presenting a free public performance at the Forum in the high school,” Piirainen said. The free performance is from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.

The kantele is a traditional Finnish lap-harp with a 2,000-year-old history rooted in the folklore of the “Kalevala,” the national epic poem of Finland.


Some 400 Finnish families, largely from one parish in Finland, came to this area between 1900 and 1914 to take over abandoned farms and escape the famine in Finland. Many descendants remain in the area, and treasures which have been passed down to them from their Finnish heritage have become the basis of the Finnish-American Heritage Society of Maine ‘s extensive holdings at its headquarters at 8 Maple St.

The active society, which holds meetings and public events, was formed in 1982 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Finnish heritage, celebrating Finnish culture and educating the community about Finnish customs. The headquarters also has rooms dedicated to research and immigrant history, displays and artifacts, and archival storage.

Piirainen said he has met many members of the family association on his trips to Finland and hopes to provide them with a hands-on tour of their Finnish heritage in the area.

The group will be housed at the Bethel Inn Resort. Their itinerary of events begins with a reception and potluck dinner at the Finnish-American Heritage Society in West Paris on Friday, June 13.

Their tour will include a trip up Mount Washington and Sunday service at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Paris. From there, they will travel to Connecticut, another area where Finnish descendants settled, for a few days and then to New York City before returning to Finland.

There has been a request from group members to track down some family cemetery plots, probably in the cemetery on Pioneer Street, where most of the Finnish immigrants are buried.

“We will keep them as busy as they want to be,” Piirainen said.

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