On July 30, 1997, the City of Marquette entered a second formal Sister City friendship with the city of Kajaani, Finland. Marquette is one of just twelve U.S. cities to share a partnership with a city in Finland, joining communities in states including Texas, California, Florida, as well as right up the road in Hancock, Michigan.
In 1991, a group from the Kajaani region of FInland representing the forest industry visited Marquette. During their stay, they noted distinct similarities between the two cities. Later that year, Marquette resident Marty Eskelinen contacted the Finnish American Society in Helsinki, through whom he met Pekka Lackman from Kajaani who expressed early interest in establishing a formal partnership.
The next year, Marty and fellow resident Sandy Pondexter paid a visit to Pekka and Kajaani. A few more informal visits in the years to come paved the way for the eventual signing of the Sister City agreement in 1997, and later that year a group from Kajaani stopped by Marquette while touring the U.S., marking the first official delegation visit.
Since then, Marquette and Kajaani have shared occasional delegation visits, most recently in the summer of 2017 when the Marquette City Band and Marquette Choral Society traveled to Kajaani to celebrate 20 years of partnership and 100 years of Finnish Independence.
The Marquette Area Sister Cities Partnership is excited to renew Marquette’s partnership with Kajaani in the coming years and resume delegation visits and cultural exchanges. Given the rich Finnish presence in Marquette and the Upper Peninsula as a whole, sharing and growing this connection is imperative.
Kajaani is the capital of the Kainuu Region of Finland. This region, known as wood country, was an important producer of pine tar, which led to the founding of Kajaani in 1951 and its growth in the centuries to follow.
By the early twentieth century, also as a result of Kainuu’s rich forested landscape, the paper industry took off, and to this day the local economy is driven mainly by sawmill, lumber, and paper industries. By the 1960s, population had grown to 14,600, and upon further industrial development and a merger with an adjacent municipality, jumped to over 36,000, a number which has held steady since the 1980s.
Kajaani is located in the heart of central Finland; the greater Kainuu Region rests along the eastern edge of the country, sharing a ~165 mile border with Russia. Their climate is characterized by cool summers (peaking with an average high of about 70°F in July) and harsh winters (average highs of about 20°F in January, but often dropping into the negatives… sound familiar?).
Marquette is one of Kajaani’s seven sister cities, sharing the honor with: Östersund, Sweden; Rostov-on-Don, Russia; Schwalm-Eder-Kreis, Germany; Nyíregyháza, Hungary; Jiujiang, China; and Bayonne, France.