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Honoring iron mining history through song

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VIRGINIA, MN -- The discovery of iron ore in northern Minnesota changed the lives of many. Generations ago, families left their home countries in search of a better life.

Many didn't know the language, the area, or even what kind of work they would be doing when arriving to the Iron Range.

The determination and grit they had during those difficult times now lives on through song thanks to Steve Solkela.

"I'm a comedian, musician, stuntman in that order of not lucrativity, but passion."

A proud Iron Ranger, Solkela is known to sing a tune.

"I have a one man comedy band where I play 17 things at once with a symbol helmet."

While cracking a joke is his specialty, Steve went a different route with a song about his family's history.

"Great Great Granddad came from Finland, a long journey, to work in the Soudan Underground Mine, and then Great Granddad followed suit."

A familiar story for many people with Iron Range ties, and one Solkela felt needed to be told.

"It's true. He traded his healthy back for bread and nowadays it's hard to know how the heck did someone make that decision to put all of their life savings and hop on a boat and go to somewhere nobody had ever heard of," said Solkela.

The inspiration for the song came while he was visiting the very mine his family members worked at.

"I was composing that at the Soudan Underground Mine. I was going down and I was thinking, somebody ought to write a song about a miner going deep down into the mine and it starts out high and it goes down super low until it's really low."

Using his talents to make sure the work of so many is never forgotten.

"When I wake up early and I stay up late getting all kinds of work done, I know that has been imbedded in me by generations of risk-taking people who came all the way across an ocean and fought until their fingers were bleeding and their ears didn't work anymore in a mine to make sure there was bread on the table," said Solkela. "And I don't take that anything but personal to help myself be motivated."

The music video for iron ore was done in collaboration with the Iron Range Tourism Bureau, Minnesota Discovery Center, and filmmaker Matthew Koshmrl.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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