Finnish fun

MARSHALL – Last summer Marshall resident Aaric Geihl took his family on vacation to Detroit Lakes and saw some people playing a lawn game he’d never seen nor heard of before.

“I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool. We’ve got to see if we can bring it back.'” Geihl said.

What Geihl saw was a variation on a centuries-old game from the Karelia region of Finland called Kyykka, sometimes referred to as “Finnish skittles.”

Kyykka is played by throwing a fairly hefty bat at beer can-sized wooden pins.

Because it does require a fair amount of physical strength to play, in 1996 the Finnish company Tuoterengas modified it to create a game played with smaller pieces called Mlkky, that could be more easily played by women and children. This is the game Geihl saw being played.

“You set up the pins in a pyramid similar to bowling,” Geihl said. “You throw the stump at them, that’s what the throwing piece is called. The object is to get 50 points.”

Each pin has a number, from 1 to 12. If a player knocks one pin down, they get the number of points on the pin. If they knock more than one down, they get points equal to the number of pins knocked over.

Players must hit exactly 50 points to win, if they go over their score is reset to 25.

Unlike bowling in any of its variations such as lawn bowling, the pins are set up after being knocked down, but each in the place it fell, meaning that after each pitch the pin set-up is different and covers a wider area.

“They get further and further apart,” Geihl said, “no two games are alike. The surface makes a difference how far apart the fall, too. We’ve played everywhere from lawns to beaches. We played stuck on a parking ramp after a Vikings game. We played at my wife’s family’s cabin with my 5-year-old son and his 85-year-old grandmother.”

Geihl makes the pieces from southern yellow pine and the box from fir plywood, and hand screen prints to logos and labels. He markets through his website and his Facebook page.

“We started in October and we’ve sold 75 so far,” Geihl said. “We’re growing pretty fast.”

In December, The Gift in Ivanhoe became Geihl’s first retail outlet.

“They had a crafts fair in Ivanhoe and he brought some up,” said Ashley Conner, owner of The Gift. “He brought me five and they sold right away.”

Connor said buyers were local, and from out of town, of all ages, and she’s definitely going to stock more.

“He’s kind of behind now because they’re so popular, Connor said. “I want one, too, but I don’t want to take any from the customers.”