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Despite damp weather, record-breaking summer for Finnish festivals

Many Finnish festivals are posting record-high attendance figures during this cool, rainy summer.

Throngs at Qstock in rainy Oulu. Image: Wasim Khuzam / Yle

In late July, the two-day Tikkurila Festivaali drew a sold-out crowd of 12,500 people daily. The festival in Vantaa, just north of Helsinki, seems to have found a winning formula, features only domestic Finnish performers such as Haloo Helsinki!, Vesala, Kaija Koo, Sanni and Apulanta.

"The fact that people can see big artists here with familiar songs that they can sing along to – that's Finnish summer at its best," says the event's founder, Jan Grehn.

Domestic music rocks

Earlier in July, Turku's Ruisrock sold all its tickets in advance, setting a new record of 105,000 visitors over three days. In eastern Finland, Ilosaarirock was extended to three days this year and also set a new record with 67,000 people.

Likewise records have been set at Tuska metal festival, the Suomipop festival in Jyväskylä and the Iskelmä festival at Jämsä's Himos resort. In Oulu, northern Finland, last weekend's Qstock sold out for the fifth year in a row.

Helsinki's big events over the next two weekends are both expected to sell out in advance. Weekend Festival expects to draw 60,000 people to the Kyläsaari area on August 4-5. The following weekend, Suvilahti hosts Flow Festival, which attracted nearly 80,000 last August.

Despite offering fewer big names this year, Flow Festival reports that all three-day and most two-day tickets are already fully booked.

"This summer has been going extremely well, especially on the rock side," says Kai Amberla, Executive Director of Finland Festivals, which represents nearly 100 events.

"Audiences have confidence in these events, regardless of who's appearing. These festivals are safe, the food is good and the atmosphere is fun," he says.

Most of the biggest festivals seem to have very similar lists of domestic headliners. Fewer big international stars are available to Finnish summer festival promoters these days. For major acts with busy summer schedules, the logistics of getting to and from this relatively isolated corner of Europe with large entourages make such stops unfeasible.

"Domestic music is really popular, though, and that's one reason why the festivals are doing so well now," says Ilosaarirock's producer, Petri Varis.

More food, drink and seating choices

He notes that festivals are now focusing more on the overall experience including food, a range of drinks, decor, lights and seating options. No longer do Finnish rock festivals just offer sausages and beer tents. Nearly all festivals now sell VIP packages, which are snapped up by firms and private individuals alike.

Organisers say there is also now a much broader age range at summer festivals. Young teens are eager to work on a volunteer basis at such events, while older audiences are increasingly being welcomed with free admission. For instance the three-day-long Ruisrock gives people over the age of 70 a free pass on the day of their choice, while Ilosaarirock lets in anyone over the age of 65 for free.