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Steam of Life

Premiere Date: August 2, 2011

'The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition'

The Cokato savusauna, built in 1868, was moved from its original roadside location because non-Finnish neighbors complained about public nudity and demanded its removal. It is now a proud monument to Finnish pioneers at a well-traveled rural corner.

In the 1960s, University of Minnesota-Duluth cultural geographer Matti Kaups found that the presence of outbuilding saunas on farms in the region was a telltale marker of ethnic identity. Ninety percent of Finnish American farmsteads had a sauna (a higher percentage even than on farmsteads in Finland), and saunas were common at all types of Finnish residences. Kaups casually observed that the sauna competed favorably with television as an evening activity among Finnish Americans.

Text excerpts and photographs taken from The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition by Michael Nordskog, photography by Aaron W. Hautala. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Copyright 2010 by Michael Nordskog. Photographs copyright 2010 by Aaron W. Hautala.

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