As part of the 2018 summer field school—FOLKLORE 490: Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore—students and instructors from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Finlandia University, and St. Olaf College volunteered at and documented the 2018 Juhannus Midsummer Festival on Agate Beach in Toivola, Michigan. The group helped the Toivola Volunteer Fire Department as it built the annual Juhannus kokko—the midsummer festival’s traditional bonfire.
The work to build the bonfire takes place the night before the festival and is a community effort as volunteers come together to load, unload, and then stack donated lumber for the kokko. This short timelapse film is set to “Kauhavan Polka” performed by Henry Mahoski. Mahoski was recorded by the folklorist Alan Lomax on September 22, 1938, in Amasa, Michigan, about 75 miles south of Toivola. The song is featured in James P. Leary’s Folksongs of Another America and is available through the Local Centers/Global Sounds collection at UW-Madison’s Mills Music Library.