12th Annual Kalevala Puppet Pageant
Fri, Aug 20 @ NYM Corn Feed
Sat, Aug 21 @ Finn Creek Fest
Workshops begin Mon, Aug 9, 2021!

The Puppet Pageant is an original large-scale street theater play based on stories from the Finnish national epic poem, The Kalevala. This annual community theater program brings people together to learn a wide variety of artistic skills including stilt-walking, Finnish culture and heritage, and make connections.

The two public performances of the Kalevala Puppet Pageant will take place as follows:

  • Friday, August 20 @ 7pm @ NYM VFW Post 3289 @ NYM Civic & Commerce Corn Feed
  • Saturday, August 21 @ 1:45pm @ Finn Creek Museum @ Finn Creek Festival

Performances are free to attend and open to all! Freewill donations will be collected at the performances to help cover the costs of this enriching community experience. If you are interested in sponsoring a youth participant or making a donation directly to the Cultural Center to support this program, give us a call at 218-385-3339 or email betsy@kulcher.org.

Workshops are lead by a talented and experienced creative team. Thanks to these artists for teaching and guiding our community of budding artists each summer!

Artistic Director Anne Sawyer is an artist specializing in puppetry and stilting. She has worked in Minneapolis over the last twenty years with groups such as Heart of the Beast, Artstart, Chicks on Sticks, and Lifeworks. She is the author of two books for children (Nalah and the Pink Tiger and Nalah Goes to Mad Mouse City). One of her most recent projects was a picture book for grown-ups, teens and tweens called Mars on Life (2020). This is her tenth year of directing the Pageant.


Assistant Director Lisa Winter loves doing puppets in New York Mills and Wadena. Her grandfather made puppets for his kids and so she is carrying on a family tradition. She recently did a puppet show called “Cats in the Kitchen” – based on a true story of her own mischievous cats. She has been with the New York Mills Pageant since its beginning.


Music Directors Curtis Teague & Loretta Simonet make up “Curtis & Loretta” and have been named “Best Acoustic Performers of the Twin Cities” by City Pages. This husband and wife duo’s extraordinary harmonies, creativity, and proficiency on a parade of stringed instruments help bring the Pageant to life. Curtis & Loretta have been involved in the Puppet Pageant for many years.


Our volunteers make the world go round.

Big thanks to ALL the community members who have assisted thus far: Dot Eskeli, Adam & Amy Tervola Hultberg, Finn Roder, Tammy Kasma, Kelly Harper, Sarah Carlson, Lori Newman, Pam Robinson, Scott Carlyon, Andraya Peterson, Nolan Cassidy, Heather Cassidy, Tyler Perish, Nick Roder, Latham Hetland, Nathalie Milantoni, Chris & Tracy Frost, Eric Bervig, Samantha Pederson, Judith Brockway, Jennifer Parta, ALL the awesome parents, and our gracious Space Hosts: City of NYM (The Barn/Sculpture Park), NYM VFW, and Finn Creek Museum. If we missed you, please accept our sincere apologies!


Thanks to the following organizations and businesses for making this year’s Puppet Pageant possible.

This program is made possible by a grant from the Finlandia Foundation. Thanks for this essential support!

A round of applause and lots of gratitude to all the KIDS & PARENTS who do so much during these two weeks!

And last but certainly not least, a giant-puppet sized THANK YOU to these amazing local 2021 Puppet Pageant sponsors:







Be Part of the Show!

Adults and youth ages 5 & up (children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult or older sibling) are invited to participate. There are two weeks of workshops beginning August 9, 2021, leading up to the culminating performances on Friday & Saturday, August 20 & 21, 2021.

This year’s Pageant will tell the story of “The Rage of King Kraken” and will feature many mythical Finnish creatures that you may recognize from year’s past, including King Kraken Iku-Turso and Ukko the Thunder God.

Dance, music, acting, costume design, performance skills, and stilt walking is taught by Anne Sawyer, Creative Director and Puppeteer who has worked with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis, along with Assistant Director Lisa Winter of Wadena, who has brings a long history and deep passion for puppets, theater and stilt-walking.

During the two weeks of workshops, participants will create and build puppets and props of all sizes in addition to learning the story and performance of the narrated play. Stilt walking will be included again this year as an added element to the performance (optional for older youth and adult participants).

Cost to participate is $50/child with a $100/family max. In order to encourage adult participation, there is no fee for adults or older teens willing to help with younger participants. Scholarships are available based on need; no one will be turned away based on an inability to pay. Volunteers gladly welcomed!

The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center produces this unique community theater experience and is pleased to partner with the New York Mills Civic & Commerce Association to present it at its Annual Corn Feed on Friday, August 20, 2021 at the VFW in New York Mills, as well as at Finn Creek Museum as part of the Annual Finn Creek Festival on Saturday August 21, 2021. We are grateful for these local partnerships!

Seeking participants, volunteers, and donations!

Call the Center to register as a participant or volunteer, or fill out form at the bottom of this post. See below for specific volunteer and donation requests. Questions? Call 218-385-3339.

Volunteers Desired:

  • Sewers
  • Carpenters/handy folk
  • Papier mache & painting fools (get your hands dirty!)
  • Kid wranglers (aka workshop helpers)
  • Backstage helpers (adults/mature teens to help kids during show)
  • Adults/teens to help stilters during afternoon practices & performances (see schedule below)
  • Adult/teen performers for larger puppets (adult/teen participants are FREE!)

Support the Puppet Pageant Financially!

Provide a scholarship to a child for just $50; $100 buys 3 gallons of acrylic paint; or cover the actual cost for 1 child to participate for $300. ALL donations welcome!

Click below, stop by during our Open Hours (Wed-Thurs 10-7, Fri 10-5, Sat 10-3), or send us a check (PO Box 246, NYMills, MN 56567). All donors will be recognized in our performance program (unless requested otherwise). THANK YOU for supporting this interactive & engaging creative community experience!

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Located @ The Barn, NYM Sculpture Park

  • August 9-13 (Mon-Fri) 9am-12pm: Daily Morning Workshops
  • August 16-19 (Mon-Thurs) 9am-12pm: Daily Morning Workshops
    • Wed. & Thurs. location TBD – may be VFW
  • August 18 (Wed) @ NOON: Transport all puppets, props, supplies etc. to NYM VFW (120 S Boardman Ave) — parent & volunteer assistance requested!
  • August 18 (Wed) 6-8pm *EVENING REHEARSAL* @ VFW
  • August 19 (Thurs) 6-8pm *DRESS REHEARSAL* @ VFW
  • August 20 (Fri) 5:30pm *CALL FOR PERFORMERS* @ VFW
  • August 21 (Sat) 12:15pm *CALL FOR PERFORMERS* @ Finn Creek



  • August 9,11 (Monday, Wednesday) 6-8pm @ The Barn
  • August 16, 17 (Monday, Tuesday) 6-8pm @ The Barn


  • August 10 (Tuesday) 1-2:30pm @ The Barn
  • August 12 (Thursday) 1-2:30pm @ The Barn
  • August 17 (Tuesday) 1-2:30pm @ The Barn
  • August 19 (Thursday) 1-2:30pm @ The VFW

*Stilt walking open to ages 8 and up. Stilters should bring a pair of jeans and sturdy shoes (hiking boots are best) with socks to put on for each practice.

Note to Parents: Please note the noon-1:00 lunch break (unsupervised) between general workshops and stilting practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

PERFORMANCE DETAILS for participants:

  • August 20 (Friday) at New York Mills VFW @ 7:00 p.m. in conjunction with NYM Corn Feed
    • NOTE: After Performance – Load all PP items for Perham performance
  • August 21 (Saturday) at Finn Creek Museum (6 miles south of NYM) @ 1:45 p.m. in conjunction with Finn Creek Festival
    • Transfer all items & set up @ Finn Creek ~10am (specifics TBD)
    • CALL FOR PERFORMERS @ 12:15pm @ Finn Creek
NOTE: We would like to have snacks for daily workshops and performances. If you would like to donate any healthy snack foods, we will gladly welcome them! Please contact us at 218-385-3339.