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Hot Spot Minnesota: The Steam Is On!

From early Finnish immigrants to wellness-centered Millennials and younger generations, Finnish saunas represent an integral part of personal wellness. A panel of sauna enthusiasts and entrepreneurs talk about developments in the Minnesota sauna scene that have attracted a  large community of young people, especially in their 20s and 30s, who have made Minnesota one of the hottest spots in the country, with sauna experiences in various shapes, sizes, and heating methods.

This program is a collaboration from Finlandia Foundation Twin Cities, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Minnesota and the Honorary Consulate of Finland, Minneapolis.

Nicole Griensewic is executive director of the Region Nine Development Commission, which works with local governments, organizations and individuals to be the “partner for progress” in south central Minnesota. She is also owner/president of Stoked Saunas mobile sauna company In Mankato, Minnesota. Nicole experienced a life-changing connection to Finland’s sauna culture while visiting there on Governor Walz’s trade mission. So much so that she developed a mobile sauna to provide these health benefits back home in her own community.

Eugene Ollila, an honors graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, is a retired internist in Minneapolis who went on to become Chief of Staff at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Growing up on the Iron Range, Gene recalls that a sauna was the only way to get REALLY clean, and says he enjoyed carrying buckets of water to the sauna and starting the fire, rolling in the snow and heating the sauna nightly during haying season. For an honors group in medical school, he wrote a scholarly paper, “History and Physiology of the Sauna,” given in 1970; it was rewritten and presented at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 1979.

He has continued to read and research health benefits of sauna, and perhaps a connection to Finland’s naming as the happiest country. Gene and Julie, his wife, enjoy birding and the outdoors.

John Pederson built his first mobile sauna, The FireHouse, in 2014, and was immediately struck by the hunger and passion it sparked in the hearts of Twin Citizens from all walks of life. From that little backyard club, he went on to work with Little Box Sauna, the nation’s first mobile sauna business. In 2016 he rallied this burgeoning community around a crowdfunding campaign to create The Forge mobile sauna, along with the 612 Sauna Society, North America’s first Sauna Cooperative. He went on to co-found Stokeyard Outfitters in 2017, the Thermaculture program at Hewing Hotel and Hilton Canopy, as well as the Great Northern Sauna Village, the largest sauna festival in the U.S. He is currently the Director of Customer Engagement at Superior Sauna & Steam.

Risto Sivula is a native of Finland now living in Minnesota. He is Eastern Region Sales Manager at Amerec, a division of Sauna360, and president of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Minnesota. Risto was half of the team behind Sisu, the Traveling Sauna that crisscrossed the U.S. in celebration of Finland’s 100th anniversary in 2017.


Erittäin Hieno Suomalainen (Very Fine Finnish) Sport 3 in 1 combines shampoo, conditioner and shower soap and is made in Finland. Comes with loofa sponge.

In a random draw at the conclusion of the program, one lucky audience member will win today’s prize. Must be present to win. NOTE: Prize shipped to U.S. address only.