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16. The idea catches on

Finland Festivals was already in action before it was incorporated. The joint brochure for the summer 1968 still appealed to the old standbys of Finland as a land of architecture and design. The next year was a time of jubilation as the arts had been in the Finnish summer, the ice had now thawed and summer culture had burst into flower. There was some substantiation for this claim: total attendance was over one hundred thousand. To be sure, this actual number of festival visitors was much smaller: attendance was computed by adding up the number of tickets sold to the various events; many festivals even counted the spectators of events for which no admission was charged. In 1970 attendance rose to 150,000. The most popular event was the Tampere Theatre Festivals, with 37,156 visits; the Helsinki Festival came close second with an attendance of 35,224. “The results can be considered encouraging for the Finland Festivals organization, too.” the Board reported.

And then?

“The total number of visitors surpassed even the boldest expectations, and the outcome is virtually unparalleled after such a short period of operation.” There had been 425,000 visitors.

Amid jubilation in 1971, the Finnish cultural summer was proclaimed unique in the Nordic countries. Attendance had risen again – to 600,000. “The result can be considered excellent”, as the annual report modestly put it.

The half million line had been surpassed, and audiences grew from year to year. In 1979, the member festivals had an attendance of 800,000. If the new ‘recommended events’ were included, the figure already exceeded one million. The sky seemed the limit.

Seppo Nummi was radiant: “Never again will we be equated with reindeer or polar bears. Even the trees in the forest are no longer our main magnet. We have something truly exceptional to offer our guests: the most up-to-date and international art scene in the midst of the most intact wilderness landscape in Europe, framed by the quiet and spaciousness of our summer.”

The PR campaigns had worked. The Finnish summer festivals had been written up in many countries, especially the United States, where the flag was held high by Tatu Tuohikorpi, press attaché at the time. In its supplement on forty European cultural events, the New York Times included eight Finnish events: Helsinki, Savonlinna, Jyväskylä, Pori, Turku, Tampere, Kaustinen and Vaasa.  The impression given was that Finland provided one-fifth of Europe’s entire festival capacity.

Perhaps not all of these events were quite worthy of the attention of a paper of New York Times stature. When the Vaasa Summer opened in 1972, two spectators showed up in the Town Hall’s assembly hall. They quietly went out again to witness the raising of the festival flag.

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