business spotlight

Brimson Sisu Run/Walk

Ted Heinonen

One of the northland’s most low-key events of the summer is the annual Brimson Sisu Run/Walk. What I love about this event is it’s small-town-county fair feel.  It takes place in mid August in and around the Brimson lakes area roughly 25 miles Northeast of Duluth. It’s basically a folks-march just under 5 miles through the woods with proceeds going to the Brimson area Volunteer Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The BAVFD provides firefighting and emergency medical services for a 365 square-mile area including several townships in St. Louis and Lake Counties. This event has been going on for 31 years now and has flourished under the original director Kathleen Anderson who retired from that position a few years to pursue her outfitting business.
It is now under the capable hands of Lynn Boggie and her hardworking team of volunteers. The Sisu has a wonderful tradition of changing the course every year. From the old Finnish homesteads, the Mother Bear Ski trail, the Cloquet River, the Toimi drumlins, the bogs, mosquitos and the berries, it’s quite the nature walk/run. This year’s Sisu will be starting at the old Toimi School. It’s a historical site that is celebrating it’s centennial so it will be a combined event this year. It’s common to hear volunteers at water stations to shout - “water, fruit slices, bug dope!”

The whole community around the Brimson area comes out to help out. From the guys with chainsaws and weed whips to clear the trails to setting up the BBQ for the picnic feed and awards ceremony afterwards. There is a tori marketplace with all manner of crafts and fresh produce available as well as live music.

One of the most coveted items of the race is the official “Critter” t-shirts. Each year depicting a native animal, bug, flower drawn by a local artist. It’s a family-oriented event with runners and walkers ranging in age of 4 years to 85 years. Some push or pull their kids in all manner of wagons and the family dog comes along too as there is a prize for dogs in this event.

A few tips for those interested in participating is that you wear good shoes. The trails are clearly marked and groomed to a point but can be unforgiving. There are numerous rocks, roots and what-have-you that can make a walker stumble. The weather can be robin’s egg blue sky or a drizzle-chilly day so bring those layers just in case. The runners and walkers come from all over the country and even foreign runners too have joined in the fun. Top runners and school teams have been known to run this event but don’t let this intimidate you. This is just a great time for family and friends to enjoy the last of summer in the woods of the northland.

Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. and the race begins at 10:00 a.m. The registration fee is  $22 the day of the race. Registration includes the Sisu Finnisher T-shirt. The prizes are donations of locally produced crafts and food. The prizes are awarded to both runners and walkers, male and female, in various age groups.

Prizes are also awarded to the highest finisher of 100% Finnish ancestry, to the persons who have participated in all the Sisus (currently four), to the person who came the farthest to the Sisu, and to persons who fit many other interesting categories.

While the award ceremony, can last awhile it is worth hanging around for just to see what the awards are made of for the year and who gets the bag of fresh, ripe tomatoes or fresh baked cookies that are produced locally.

Refreshments will be sold by members of the Volunteer Fire Dept. and will include coffee and pop, sweet corn, hot dogs, Polish sausage, veggie dogs, and other items plus donated baked goods.

The 31st Annual Brimson Sisu starts at the Toimi school, located on the south east corner of Forest Highway 11 / County Road 15 and County Road 151/Murphy Lake Road.

For more information call Lynn at 218-848-2894 (it’s a local call from Duluth) or visit their website:

Whether you are of Finnish decent or just want to experience and learn what Sisu is all about, this might be the ticket. Olkaa hyvä!