Reede, 27 Märts 2020 19:00
Estonian Life No. 12 2020
February 21, 2020, "We The Nordic" was held at The Cotton Factory in Hamilton. The evening event was the first of its kind, a partnership between The Cotton Factory and Hamilton Estonian Society that built upon past collaborations including Estonian Music Week events and the Ambassador's reception last fall.
One of the beautiful things about Estonian culture in Canada is that in some ways, it is almost more traditional than in eesti itself (beginning with the language, as I was quickly reminded on my first trip back at 16 and my cousin asked "miks sa raagid nagu vana mutt?") and the organizing committee was seeking a way to capture how everything old is new again, starting at the roots. There was much discussion about the name of the event, but it was simply a focus on our Pohjamaalane identity, the part of us that enjoys sauna, spirits, song, and celebration in the snowy slow days of winter.
Estonian flags and a smiling “tere” from Sten Puust greeted you upon arrival, who was operating the classic old freight elevator that took you to the top floor and back throughout the evening. The hall was amazingly cozy with a large, bare tree hung in the middle, reminding us of our Nordic roots theme.
The evening was a relaxed and casual affair designed for socializing and grazing, guided throughout by Leila Hess, President of the Hamilton Estonian Society. She provided detailed commentary about the historical context of the night while introducing the evening entertainment, starting with the dramatic entrance of the Proverb Spirit ”Vanasona Vaim” and forest creatures on stilts! They slowly moved among the crowd to Part Uusberg’s “talveohtul” and shared Estonian proverbs “vanasonad” to all of the attendees.
Throughout the night everyone was musically entertained by the endearing Laululinnud Merike and Helmi Hess, who sang very carefully selected and beautiful Estonian songs, Tor Lukasik-Foss, a local artist who completed a four week residency at Tallinn Art Hall in 2018, and by Norman Reintamm, who played Estonian compositions that were heard for the first time in addition to some classics. Aerial performances on ropes and silks were also featured, adding a bit of homage to our love for gymnastics.
No Estonian event would be complete without fantastic food. Our first wish putting this event together was to secure Paul Lillakas as featured chef, sharing his cooking skills and contagious energy. Paul demonstrated a deconstructed rosolje, which was delicious and a great example of using time tested food combinations we know and love and presenting them in a surprising and beautiful way. Paul's feature dish was complimented by an assortment of kulmlaud staples by local caterer Jonny Blonde, whose kapsa ja liha dish reminded some of a delicious concoction their vanaema used to make. Others had never tasted it before and were excited to discover a new combination of our staple foods- another example of old becoming new. Of course, no Estonian event is complete without vodka, so our organizing committee put together a flight of vodkas for those willing to expand their vodka horizons. The clear cut winner for taste was Poorioo Vodka, a surprise unknown that easily defeated Viru Valge and Saaremaa (along with the non-Estonian brands) in a landslide victory.
We were lucky to have the use of large displays of hundreds of pictures and articles of past Estonian events and celebrations in Hamilton, delighting many who found pictures of family members they had never seen, or reading about people from the past and crossing names that had been forgotten. There was also silent auction items donated by wonderfully talented Estonian artists and craftsmen, including Kai Eichenbaum (pottery), Evi Pertens (Estonian jewelry), Mari Kimsto (decorative gnomes), Hali Puust (painting), and KEW Wineries (which is owned by Estonians- make them a stop on your next wine tour!).
At 8:00pm, the same time that Estonia declared its independence in Parnu 102 years ago, sparklers lit the room and the crowd sang “Eestlane olen, Ja Eestlaseks jaan”.
In keeping with Hamilton Estonian Society tradition, an Estonian local post-secondary student is recognized and awarded a scholarship each year around Estonian Independence Day. This year’s recipient was Max Bowder, who accepted the award in person and shared his experience in journalism studies thus far. The Hamilton Estonian Society has handed out over 40 scholarships and is very proud to support our smartest and brightest as they make their mark on the world and our community.
The organizing committee was grateful to the support from The Cotton Factory and our event organizer, Annette, for delivering on our ambitious attempt at something unknown. The Hamilton Estonian Society has a wonderful 70 plus year history of putting on incredible events and celebrating our heritage, and is looking forward to nurturing the roots Estonians have put down in Hamilton. This evening was also a special night for our main sponsor, Northern Birch Credit Union, as we were able to meet members of the new Hamilton Branch and launch the new website and brand with our local Hamilton and Latvian friends.
Thank you for the generous financial support! - Anneli Thomson
We The Nordic 2