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U.P. Folklife Award Winners Announced June 8, 2020

The Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University has announced its 2020 Upper Peninsula Folklife Awardees: musician Randy Seppala of Watton; folklorist Yvonne Lockwood, an Ironwood native who resides in Chelsea; and woodcarver Peter “Pekka” Olson of Chassell. The awards will be presented on Friday, Nov. 6, at NMU’s Sonderegger Symposium.

Seppala, also known as “Da Bones Man,” has built a reputation throughout the Upper Peninsula for playing and teaching the rhythm bones. Trained by the legendary Johnny Perona, a 2009 UPFA recipient, Randy has taught workshops on the rhythm bones for more than two decades throughout the U.P. and beyond. He has performed for decades as a percussionist in many folk groups, including the Finnish American All-Stars, Lumber Jakki, Thimbleberry Band and U.P. Gumbo. He was coordinator of the annual Covington Music Festival and is a regular workshop leader at the Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival and Marquette Area Blue Festival. He participated in Michigan State University’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program in 2003.

Yvonne Hiipakka Lockwood is Emerita Curator of Folklife at Michigan State University. She has dedicated her career to researching, promoting and providing material support for the cultural traditions of the people of the state of Michigan, with special attention to Finnish Americans and the Upper Peninsula. Her past research has focused on such U.P. traditions as pasty-making, sauna and Finnish American traditional dairy products, especially viili and leipäjuusto. Lockwood’s most notable work relates to rag-rug weaving, which resulted in the thoroughly researched and sumptuously illustrated book, Finnish American Rag Rugs: Art, Tradition, and Ethnic Continuity. She also curated a traveling exhibition on the same subject. Lockwood’s tireless advocacy for U.P. folklife is seen in her work at MSU Museum, which consistently honors traditional artists, educators, and researchers who champion folklife, and awards apprenticeship grants that ensure U.P. folk traditions will continue into the future.

Olson is a retired forester who devotes much of his time to woodcarving and basket weaving. He specializes in carving Christmas trees, fan birds, boats and many other items. He has served twice as a master in the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and has been awarded a fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation. He has also studied under traditional carvers in Finland and Sweden and will soon return to learn a new technique for carving St. Thomas Crosses, one of his many specialties. Pekka has presented and offered workshops at numerous festivals and fairs throughout the region.

Each year since 2009, the Beaumier Center has presented this award to individuals or organizations who have made a difference in the creation or preservation of the folk traditions of the Upper Peninsula. More details regarding the Nov. 6 recognition event will be released in the fall.

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