Contributed photo
Practice for the annual Puppet Pageant in New York Mills got underway last week at the Sculpture Park and The Barn. The Puppet Pageant will be held on Friday night at the NY Mills VFW and on Saturday at Finn Creek.

Puppet pageant set for Friday at NYM VFW, Saturday at Finn Creek

By Chad Koenen


Larger-than-life puppets will return to New York Mills this weekend for the 12th annual Kalevala Puppet Pageant. A unique play based on the characters and tales from the Kalevala, the Finnish book of legends, will be told by local residents through puppet costumes, stilt-walking, songs and music by award-winning duo Curtis and Loretta of Minneapolis, Minn.

This year’s performance will tell the story of “The Rage of King Kraken,” and attendees will see familiar characters from year’s past, including King Kraken Iku-Turso and Ukko the Thunder God. 

After being canceled last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cultural Center Executive Director Betsy Roder said the organizers are excited to get back on the stage at this year’s Puppet Pageant. A total of 20 people are participating in the pageant this year. 

“We had some families that haven’t done it (in a while),” she said. “We have had families come back and everybody I called to see if they wanted to do it again said yes, so they missed it.”

The first performance will be held at 7 p.m. at the NY Mills VFW following the corn feed. A second performance will take place on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at Finn Creek Museum as part of the Finn Creek Festival. Both performances are free to attend and open to the public. 

Acting, costume design, performance skills, and stilt walking are taught by Anne Sawyer, Creative Director and Puppeteer from Minneapolis, Minn. She has worked with In the Heart of the Beast, Artstart, Chicks on Sticks, and Lifeworks, along with Assistant Director Lisa Winter of Wadena, who is a long-time puppeteer and stilt-walker, and has been involved in the Puppet Pageant all 12 years.

Work for the puppet pageant begin long before the performance itself. Community workshops were held last week, as well as this week, where community members of all ages create the puppets, costumes and scenery, learn to walk on stilts, build sessions and hold stilt practices. 

Roder said the Cultural Center would like to thank the many supporters of the Puppet Pageant, with special thanks to the Finlandia Foundation National for their grant support, and local main event sponsor, the New York Mills Civic & Commerce Association.

  For more information, contact the Cultural Center at 385-3339 with questions, to volunteer, or to donate. All contributions are appreciated and necessary to bring this vibrant community project to life.

File photo
The larger-than-life puppets will be making an appearance at the New York Mills VFW and the Finn Creek Open Air Museum this weekend for a pair of shows. A group of local volunteers spent last week, as well as this week, practicing for the annual Puppet Pageant.