- About Us /
Board meeting in New Jersey in February, 2010
FinnFest USA members elect 12 directors to serve for a term of three years. They also represent the 3 regions of the United States; West, Mid-U.S and the East.
K. Marianne Wargelin, President
K. Marianne Wargelin grew up in three Finnish American communities: Berkeley, CA, Fairport Harbor, OH, and Hancock, MI. Traveling with her parents during their annual National Lampoon Finnish American Family vacations she visited many of the Finnish communities scattered across the entire continental United States. Now, an educator in American higher education, she works primarily as a consultant with scholars, government officials, cultural institutions, and the general public about Finland and Finnish America. Currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tampere in Finland, her dissertation studies the changing identity of the national Finnish American community, a subject well suited to her position as President of FinnFest USA since 2004
Ryan Braski, Vice President
Ryan Braski grew up in Northern Minnesota and has lived in Lake Tahoe, CA and Salt Lake City, UT. He is currently working as a CPA at U.S. Bank's headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. Ryan joined the FinnFest USA board in 2006. His first FinnFest was the 1990 festival in Hancock, MI. When not working or spending time with his wife and family, Ryan enjoys snowboarding, biking, running, fishing, photography and traveling. Ryan's parents took him on his first trip to Finland when he was 3 years old.
Steve Koivula, Treasurer
Steve Koivula has been the Treasurer of FinnFest USA since 2001 and also serves on the Board of the Finnish American Society of the Midwest and the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, Midwest. He is a third generation Finn, a retired accountant living in St. Charles, IL with his wife, Nona, who is an avid gardener. Steve and his wife have a second home on Pearl Lake in Central Wisconsin. The house was built by his grandfather in 1939. They enjoy afternoons by the lake getting refreshed physically and spiritually in the authentic Finnish sauna. And a little fishing is also an enjoyment while there.
Eeva Savolainen, Secretary
Eeva Savolainen, a native of Finland has been living in the United States since 1995 and has been active within the Finnish and Finnish American community since moving to Minneapolis in 1996. She received her Master of Music degree from Sibelius-Academy and has been performing as a soprano all over US and Canada, promoting Finnish music whenever appropriate. She now works in the field of non-profit management, but continues to sing with Saana Ensemble, a vocal group of 5 Finnish women. Eeva’s family includes a husband who is a musician, two teenagers, a black lab and two rescued cats. As a result, her household does get quite noisy at times.
Lindsay Gwyther, a fourth generation Finnish American, grew up in Rutland, Massachusetts. She spent summers at Finn Park and continues to be active in the Finnish Heritage Society Sovittaja there. Lindsay studied in Finland at both the University of Oulu and the University of Joensuu, graduating with a masters degree from the latter. Currently, she is working in Boston in the biotech industry. Outside of work, Lindsay enjoys hiking, good food and wine, traveling, handicrafts and relaxing in the Finnish sauna.
Elaine Kumpula joined the FinnFest USA board in 2008 after working with some of the local festival committees on a variety of matters. Elaine is an immigration attorney with Faegre & Benson LLP, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She enjoys her career and the opportunities it presents for her to meet new people from around the world. When not thinking about the next issue for FinnFest, Elaine enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and socializing. She also wakes up at 5:30 several mornings each week to exercise – an activity she finds somewhat less enjoyable.
Yvonne was raised in Ironwood, Michigan, and when 13 she moved with her family to California. She returned to Michigan in 1969 and since has been actively renewing her Finnish roots. Yvonne is curator emeritus of folklife and senior academic specialist emeritus at the Michigan State University Museum. While there, she has also served as associate coordinator of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program. Her cultural and historical research in Bosnia, Austria, and the United States, especially the Great Lakes region and Finnish America, has resulted in publications, exhibitions, festival presentations, and workshops. She is author of Finnish American Rag Rugs: Art, Tradition, and Ethnic Continuity (Michigan State University Press).
Paul Makela was born in Michigan in 1941. He moved to Oakland, California in 1963 and trained to become a carpenter. The last 17 years of his career Paul served as a Carpenters Union Business Representative, working for the District Council in the San Francisco Bay Area.Paul first visited Finland while on leave from the United States Navy sailing the Mediterranean in 1961.Since then, he has visited Finland five times. He is serving his fourth term on the FinnFestUSA Board of Directors and has attended seven FinnFest Festivals. Paul and his wife Diane celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009. They have three sons and eight grandchildren.
Helena Niskanen, a native of Finland living in Jersey City, is a FinnFest board member since 2007. For over 15 years, she worked for the Finnish Tourist Board, an organization under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, promoting Finland as a travel destination in North America. Currently Helena operates through her own company Polar Star Marketing Solutions. Helena is very active in the New York Finnish/Scandinavian community having served as the Vice President of Finland for the American Scandinavian Society and continues to act as a Treasurer for Finland Center Foundation. Helena is married with son Jamie who is a senior at college and pursuing law studies next.
Eleanor Palo Stroller
Eleanor Palo Stoller is a sociologist who studies health and illness in late life. Memories of her Finnish grandparents sparked her interest in the impact of ethnic background on the experience of growing old. Living most of her life away from Finnish American communities, FinnFestUSA has provided her with an opportunity for connecting with other Finnish Americans. Dr. Stoller has held faculty appointments at Wake Forest University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Florida, and the State University of New York (Plattsburgh). Eleanor and her husband, Michael, are the parents of two adult children.
Daniel Truckey was born and raised in Michigan and spent his childhood split between the Lower and Upper Peninsula’s of the State. A descendent of the Piirto clan of Ishpeming, he attended Northern Michigan University (just like his grandmother Siiri) where he majored in history and minored in music. Since receiving his masters degrees in Popular Culture (Bowling Green) and History Museum Studies (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Dan has worked in museums throughout the Northeast and Midwest. He currently is the director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University where he manages the Upper Peninsula Folklife Festival and the International Performing Arts Series. When not working, he’s camping or skiing with his family or jamming with his many musician friends in the Upper Peninsula.
Carl Rahkonen is a second generation Finnish American, who works as a Music Librarian and Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University, Bloomington, with a dissertation on the “Kantele Traditions of Finland.” During this research, he and his wife lived in Finland for two years. He is an active researcher, most recently studying Finnish and Scandinavian American music, and American folk fiddling. He is a practicing musician who plays classical, popular and folk music in a variety of ensembles. More detailed information may be found on his home page at: http://www.people.iup.edu/rahkonen/