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Arts & Life

Local TV program "Finland Calling" comes to an end after 53 years

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FLICKR USER DENNIS JARVIS / FLICKR
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The Upper Peninsula is facing the end of an era. After 53 years, Finland Calling, the only Finnish-language program in the United States, is coming to an end.

Marking the retirement of host Carl Pellonpaa, the final show will be on March 29.

Pellonpaa, a once-Finnish radio host, began his television career as host of Finland Calling on March 25, 1962. The show has been on the air at WLUC-TV in Marquette since then.

“The idea would be to reach out to the Finnish Americans who would be in the viewing area and show pictures of Finland, and play Finnish music, and induce them in some way or shape or form, to travel to Finland and see what their roots are like,” Pellonpaa said.

As a result of the show, Pellonpaatraveled to Finland 34 times, taking over 1,000 viewers on tour of the country.

Guests on Pellonpaa’s show have been diverse. A sampling of invited guests include choirs, presidents of Finland, foreign ministers, ambassadors, taxi drivers, bus drivers, policemen, and students.

But how did Finland Calling survive through an era in which so many locally-produced programs disappeared?

“I don’t know,” Pellonpaa said. “It just went day by day, week by week, and we started in 1962. We felt that when the old Finns would die, the program would end. Well, they died but their siblings came up and their children started watching and listening and now I’m being blasted with, ‘Gee whiz, why are you quitting? Why are you quitting? We don’t want you to quit.’”

The program will end, though. Pellonpaa feels that the show is “his baby” and does not want someone else to take over.

“A big round of a thousand thanks to each and every one who has supported me, who have watched the show,” he said. “But more, I think more specifically, I want to be sure to, on the air, say thank you to my wife, Doris, because without her support and her constructive criticisms, her encouragement, the show would have died a long time ago.”