National Sauna Day

The Savu Sauna and the Nelimark Homestead and Museum's historic 1930s sauna, along with an exhibit of traveling saunas, will be on display during Saturday's National Sauna Day celebration in Embarrass.

EMBARRASS — Saturday is “National Sauna Day” — in Embarrass, anyway.

And what better way to celebrate northern Minnesota’s national day of recognition than with a homemade Finnish lunch, sauna games and, of course, plenty of saunas.

Festivities will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Nelimark Homestead and Museum in Embarrass.

There will be a display of traveling saunas — a “sauna village” of sorts, said Marlin Bjornrud, president of Sisu Heritage Inc., an Embarrass nonprofit dedicated to promoting and preserving the area’s Finnish heritage.

Sauna builders from the Iron Range, Twin Cities, Duluth and Two Harbors will have several types of mobile saunas for visitors to peruse, including log and barrel saunas.

National Sauna Day has been celebrated in Embarrass for a handful of years now, and there will be several new saunas this time, Bjornrud said. The lineup will also feature a Soudan resident’s personal sauna.

“Our dream is for it to be like a car show, with a long line of saunas to look at,” he said.

Attendees will have the chance to tour the homestead’s primitive smoke sauna, or “savu sauna,” built in 1924, and the Nelimark sauna, the largest in Embarrass at the time of its construction in the 1930s and now on the National Register of Historic Places.

A lunch of Finnish beef mojakka and fresh bread, prepared by ladies of Sisu Heritage, will be served. Bill Maxwell and Cowboy Angel Blue will perform live music.

There will be a Finnish boot throwing contest with prizes, along with a homemade sauna stove game in which players compete by pouring water on a sauna stove.

The celebration will offer door prizes, raffle tickets, chainsaw cutting/log construction and sauna stove demonstrations. A Babbitt high schooler will also provide blacksmithing demos.

The Farmstead Artisans gift shop will be open, offering free coffee and selling an array of handmade goodies, including Finnish pulla, along with aprons, notecards, T-shirts, Finnish ceramics, books, rugs and more.

“If people have not visited the museum in a while, this is a great time to do that,” Bjornrud said.

The museum displays and historic homestead log structures will be open all day, including the Norha playhouse, which a pioneer built of logs for his daughter in 1902; the “bachelor’s house,” where a bachelor who worked for a local family lived long ago; and the Nevala house, the oldest known home in Embarrass, built between 1880 and 1890.

Sisu Heritage, which maintains the homestead and museum, is also reviving its “Flying Finns” exhibit, which commemorates the Embarrass track team of the early-1950s that turned local farm boys into athletic stars.

The legendary Embarrass runners won the District 27 championship in 1951, 1952 and 1953, the Region 7 title in 1951 and 1953 and came in third in state in 1952, competing in a one-class system against far larger schools. The exhibit will be displayed in one of the rooms throughout the summer, Bjornrud said.

There is no admission for National Sauna Day, but proceeds from food sales will go toward Sisu Heritage restoration projects, he said. Sponsors of the celebration are Lamppa Manufacturing, Fortune Bay Resort Casino, C&C Winger, Como Oil and the Embarrass-Vermillion Credit Union.

Tours at the Nelimark Homestead are offered Thursday to Saturday throughout the summer. The museum has been visited by people from around the world, Bjornrud said.

And National Sauna Day is growing. People come from across the state come to celebrate the Finnish tradition, he added.

Just make sure, of course, you say it correctly, whether you are Finnish or not, he said with a laugh: “Sow-na” not “saw-na.”

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