Grapes will hop for St. Urho's

Horned helmets, giant grasshoppers, pitchforks, Black and Decker drills, purple underwear and grapes will be worn, carried, presented, activated and thrown (not necessarily in that order) on March 16 when the annual St. Urho's Day celebration returns to Hood River.

Participants will gather at 11:30 a.m. at Northwest Auto Parts in the Heights where the parade will begin. In the ceremonious staging area of the auto parts store's south parking lot, last year's queen, Alice Swyers, will crown her successor from the Royal Court: Princesses Bertie Downing, Ruth Hukari and Mildred Alajoki.

The parade, led by Grand Parade Marshall Rep. Patti Smith (R-Corbett), will then proceed downtown to City Hall for the traditional "Changing of the Guards" at approximately 12:20 p.m.

The theme of this year's parade is "Proud to be American and Finnish too in 2002."

"St. Urho's Day is thoroughly off the wall, tongue-in-cheek fun and has become a tradition in Hood River," said coordinator Camille Hukari. The celebration has been held in Hood River since 1981 in honor of Urho, a Finnish hero who, with the aid of a pitchfork, successfully banished the grasshoppers that were destroying the grape crops of Finland across the sea to Ireland.

"The day, March 16, was deliberately selected by American Finns in an effort to upstage St. Patrick's Day," Hukari said. The traditional colors of the day, green and purple, honor the grasshoppers and grapes from whence the celebration came.

A special addition to this year's celebration is an unusual beauty contest which will take place downtown around 12:15 p.m. Parade watchers are invited to participate in the events by pelting the paraders with grapes. Post-parade activities will be held at Full Sail where the traditional "Toast to the Queen" will be held, along with an afternoon of live music. Children are welcome. To cast your vote for the queen, call 386-5785.

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