Heikki Visits the Midwest Snow Capital

Delaware, Michigan village marker. Photograph by Hilary Virtanen.

The winter of 1978- 1979 has gone down in Keweenaw Peninsula history as the snowiest on record. In March of 1979, the hamlet of Delaware became known as the “Midwest Snow Capital.” In celebration of this title, and to highlight some of the new businesses in the area, members of the Hill and Gully Snowmobile Club in Copper Harbor gathered for a snowmobile ride and a celebration at the recently-opened Delaware Mine Tour.

Delaware Mine Tour, Delaware, Michigan. Photograph by Hilary Virtanen.

At this first event, Copper Harbor restauranteur Don Kauppi dressed as Heikki Lunta and danced on the roof of a cabin to celebrate the snow. A local woman was named the Snow Queen for the day, and celebrants highlighted their own recreational relationship with the snow, along with their tourism-driven businesses. It is here that Heikki Lunta first became placed between local and non-local interests. As Delaware Mine Tours owner Tom Poynter explained in a 2005 interview, “We were all young and had just opened up these new businesses, and this party kind of celebrated that.” The businesses in question were created to encourage tourism, and the Delaware Ride-In attracted people both native and visiting.

Heikki Lunta, Delaware Mine c. 1980. Photo courtesy Reggie.

This party became an annual event for several years, with Heikki Lunta being crowned, along with a Snow Queen, at one or two of the subsequent events. The event was hugely popular, often attracting around 1000 participants according to one participant. Gradually, Heikki Lunta disappeared from the festivities, and later, the celebration and snowmobile ride moved its focus to Copper Harbor.

COPYRIGHT:© Hilary Virtanen 2006
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