Artwork courtesy of Sue Prill, spouce of deceased member

Lion Jerry Prill

The Legend of Saint Urho

The legend  St. Urho was the invention of a Finnish-American named Richard Mattson, who worked at Ketola's Department Store in Virginia, Minnesota in the  spring of 1956. Mattson later recounted that he invented St. Urho when he was questioned by coworker Gene McCavic about the Finns' lack of a saint like the Irish St .Patrick whose feat of casting the snakes out of Ireland is remembered on St. Patrick’s Day.
According to the original "Ode to St. Urho,”  St. Urho was supposed to have cast the frogs out of Finland by the power of his loud voice, which he obtained by drinking sour whole milk and eating fish soup. St. Urho's feast is supposed to be celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green.
 Dr. Sulo Havumaki, a psychology professor at Bemidji State College changed the  legendary frogs to  grasshoppers and introduced the incantation to "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!" ("Grasshopper, grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!"), thus saving the Finnish grape crop.
The "Ode to St. Urho" has been modified to reflect these changes in the feast day and legend. The Ode is written in a self-parodying form of English as spoken by Finnish immigrants.  There is also a "Ballad of St. Urho" written by Sally Karttune.
The selection of the name Urho as the saint's name was influenced by the accession of  Urho Kekkonen to the presidency of Finland in 1956. Urho in the Finnish language also has the meaning of hero or simply brave.
There are St. Urho fan clubs in Canada and Finland as well as the U.S., and the festival is celebrated on March 16 in many American and Canadian communities with Finnish roots.  The original statue of St. Urho is located in Menahga, Minnesota.  Another interesting chainsaw-carved St. Urho statue is located in Finland, Minnesota. There is a pub called St. Urho's Pub in central Helsinki, Finland.  A 2001 book, The Legend of St. Urho by Joanne Asala, presents much of the folklore surrounding St. Urho and includes an essay by Richard Mattson on the "birth" of St. Urho.
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