Old settlers celebrate Soudan mine's legacy with century-old picnic

By KBJR News 1

July 20, 2014 Updated Jul 20, 2014 at 11:12 PM CDT

Tower, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Big, boiling barrels of booyah.

That's a Vermilion Iron Range delicacy that's at least a hundred years old. After a century, nobody really remembers if it is a Finnish treat or not, but it still goes by the same recipe.

"Boy, beef, pork, green beans, corn, carrots, celery, a lot of ingredients," laughed booyah chef Jerry Chiabotti.

It's almost as many ingredients as the human ones that started the Vermilion Range and the Soudan Mine back in 1884. This is the 100th annual Vermilion Range Old Settlers' Picnic.

"It was originally from the Oliver Mining company started this picnic for their workers back in 14," said old settler Sheldon Marjala.

"Actually, when it first started out it was a three day celebration, so they were very hard workers but when they had their fun, they had their fun," added Chiabotti.

Part of the fun nowadays is comparing notes on when one's relatives first came to towns like Tower, Soudan, Ely and Winton.

"My great grandfather walked to Tower in about 1893; left his wife in Duluth for two years until he got established," said Marjala. "He was a woodsman, not a miner but my father worked in the mine."

The Soudan mine has been a state park for over 50 years now so very few if any Oliver Mining Company miners attend the annual picnic their employer started a hundred years ago.

But, the Old Settlers Association should last at least another century.
Membership is open to anyone born or living on the Vermilion Range; whether or not they have a taste for Booyah.

The lead organizer of this year's centennial picnic was Kathy Hoppa currently from Virginia.

If her name sounds familiar, that's because Minnesota's state cold record of 60 below was set in her back yard south of Tower back in 1996.

Dave Anderson