HOW DID TURUN TUOMIOPÄIVÄ BECOME A SPORTS FESTIVAL?
The founders of Turun Tuomiopäivä, Meri Kylänpää and Aino Lepistö, have always considered it important to offer a high-quality competition experience to the athlete and afterwards have invested more in the spectator experience as well. Meri’s and Aino's goal is for Turun Tuomiopäivä to be the Ruisrock of sports one day.
This interview reveals what has brought Turun Tuomiopäivä to its current position as Finland's first licensed CrossFit competition and what the future looks like.
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR TURUN TUOMIOPÄIVÄ COME ABOUT?
Meri remembers first thinking of organizing her own competition in the stands of Winter War, but the idea for Turun Tuomiopäivä was born in the summer of 2018.
"Aino and I were at the Paavo Nurmi stadium at a sports event with the CrossFit Huntti stall. We sat there in the stands and then and there it was just decided that this would be organized. And the whole thing was already announced at the beginning of 2019", says Meri.
"Yeah, we didn’t really put much thought into all the realities when we decided it", Aino continues.
WHERE DOES THE NAME OF THE EVENT COME FROM?
"It's a name invented by Joni Saari. We put up a competition among the CrossFit Huntti members, because we couldn't come up with a good name ourselves, haha!", Aino laughs.
In the competition, you had to come up with a name and a slogan for the event. In the end, there were three options left, of which the best one was voted. At this point, Meri starts searching for old name suggestions in the threads of Whatsapp conversations, but with no success. Aino recalled that “Turun Palo” (meaning “Fire of Turku”) was one of the name suggestions. Together Meri and Aino also remembered that the slogan was "Tois pual Suamee, täl pual jokke" (meaning “on the other side of Finland, on this side of the river” written in the unique Turku dialect), but it has since been left unused.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO MAKE TURUN TUOMIOPÄIVÄ A SPORTS FESTIVAL? IS THIS A COMMON CONCEPT?
Meri knows that the Paavo Nurmi Games are referred to as a sports festival. Neither of them can think of other events that go by the name of a sports festival in Finland, but abroad there are more, such as Wodapalooza in Miami. Meri was in the stands of Wodapalooza in 2019 enjoying the festival atmosphere and remembers thinking back then that an event like this is also needed in Finland.
"Our basic idea has always been that the CrossFit competition in its normal form is for the spectator (or of course for the athlete as well), a heavy day when you just sit in the stands all day if there is nothing else to do in the event area ", Meri tells.
Meri and Aino want the event to be an experience for the audience as well. In the future, they hope to find more spectators outside of crossfitters as well and strive to make the event even more fun for the spectators.
"And we would like this to be like the Ruisrock of sports. But there is still some way to go", Meri comments as a loyal Ruisrock fan (Ruisrock is a very popular music festival in Turku, Finland).
WHAT WAS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN YOU STARTED ORGANIZING A COMPETITION?
"Already in the first year, we thought about all the small details very carefully, even though we did it with a fraction of the budget and for the first time", Aino begins.
"I also remember that since the first year we’ve had the idea that the event must be a high-quality experience for the athlete", Meri adds. Aino agrees and mentions that already in the first year the athletes were offered lunch and other amenities on site.
"Maybe even in the first year it was more of an experience for the athlete. And the fact that Jonne programs the events and that there are invitational athletes with whom you can compete on the same field. So it started from the competitor experience, and now it has expanded to the spectator experience as well. In the first year, our spectator tickets cost 5 euros...", explains Aino.
Meri discloses that the athlete has of course always been the core thing, because that's what the audience comes to watch.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT OVER THE YEARS TO YOU?
Aino begins: "Probably when the event was finished in the very first year and the field was empty. It was pretty cool, because at that time we didn't know anything about how it was going to work out. When the field was cleared, it was done. It was pretty neat. Although every year there have been some star moments that it is difficult to define a single best one."
Meri is on the same page: "Yup, my thoughts also go back to the first year, when there were no expectations and everything was just a big question mark like how will this go. Nobody expected anything from us, and no one really knew how it was going to go, and then it worked out. That was cool and memorable."
"And right after the first year came Covid and all, which changed a lot. But I feel that last year we got a bit of the same feeling from the first year back, that things somehow fell into place", continues Meri.
"Either the atlas rock event (2020) or last year's Clean Ladder (2022). The atlas rock event was really cool when it was the end of August, the sun was setting and the atmosphere was amazing, and there are really great pictures of it too. And last year the Clean Ladder was very entertaining in my opinion. Of course the special locations are also cool, but as an organizer, they involve such stress factors, that you may not be able to enjoy them in the same way at that moment", says Meri.
Aino’s favorite events are exactly the same. "I already knew last year, when Jonne told us about the events, that okay, that Clean Ladder is going to be so great", she adds. Meri continues the reflection: "And overall, in my opinion, last year's events were the most successful so far. There were many events that were entertaining from the spectator's point of view."
"Well, maybe I'll mention the first year's riverside event as well", Aino adds. "Paavol ja takasi” (Meaning to Paavo and back). There were some great vibes there..." Meri and Aino immerse themselves in reminiscing about the event. Aino describes: "It was the first event that started and there were so many people there and it was damn hot outside..." To which Meri continues: "And I remember when the fire truck was at the other end and those firefighters were sitting on the truck to watch the race, it was cool!”
"Yeah, it was great! It was rough as an event, but quite a memorable one", says Aino.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING THING OVER THE YEARS?
Aino immediately answers "Money and profitability" after which Meri laughs and starts thinking about her own answer.
"If you can't make this profitable, then after a while there won't be any more people doing this."
"Well, if you think about it broadly, it's probably money. And where does the line go, what can be done just for the love of the sport? If the activity is not profitable, then at some point you will burn yourself out. If we want Turun Tuomiopäivä to happen every year in the future, if we don't make something profitable out of this, then after a while there won't be any more people doing this. That's the question", Meri reflects.
IS THE EVENT ABOUT BUSINESS OR LOVE FOR THE SPORT?
"Perhaps it started from the love of the sport, and when we realized that there is a demand for this, we thought that this could be something that could also be turned into a profitable business. But this really won’t be a million-dollar business in the near future, haha!", Meri laughs.
"The event started from the love of the sport, but it cannot be continued indefinitely. Money enables work."
Aino continues: "Yes, I think business is not a good word, but more so that you could get a full-time job from this. Many people don't understand that it's not just a couple of months of work in the summer that this event requires. It has been necessary to reduce paid work in order to be able to do this."
"Business sounds like we would be driving around in a Tesla with Meri wearing blazers and making huge profits," Aino describes, and both laugh at the image.
"Yes, and you wouldn't want the event to stop existing just because we can't take it anymore. And it has a lot to do with the money question", Meri thinks. "Yes, money enables work", states Aino.
DO YOU IMMEDIATELY START PLANNING THE NEXT COMPETITION AFTER THE PREVIOUS ONE IS OVER?
Meri dreams of an ideal situation where, while planning the previous competition, one would also think about future years, but there are currently not enough resources for that.
Aino tells about the breakdown of the event: "I has usually been just a couple of weeks, and I've already done some work regarding the dates and other individual things. After all, the work of the previous event will continue to some extent until the end of November, and a new one is already being planned alongside it. For the organizers, the event doesn't end when it ends for the spectators and athletes."
Meri says that last fall (2022) for the first time, she started to think about some larger lines for the next event already a month after the previous one.
WHAT KIND OF TEAM IS WORKING BEHIND THE EVENT?
Meri and Aino have the primary responsibility for organizing the event. With a quick calculation, they find that, on average, one person's full year-round 40h/week work input is divided between three people - Meri, Aino and nowadays also Maria. "This year we have hired the first year-round employee to do e.g. social media and to take care of other things related to organizing the event", says Meri proudly.
In addition to that, Turun Tuomiopäivä is supported by a 13-member motivated and professional team leader team, which does invaluable work for the event. "Our team leader group has enabled the development of the event - it cannot be emphasized enough how important these people are", Meri says gratefully.
Some of the team leaders have more responsibility in the event itself and some throughout the year. Aino explains the tasks of the work group: "The work division of the team leader group has been made so that everyone has their own areas of responsibility. Areas of responsibility include judging, gear, scoring- and athlete services, public service, live stream stuff, hosting, serving area, and set-up and tear-down."
WHICH THINGS HAVE CHANGED THE MOST IN ORGANIZING THE EVENT SINCE 2019?
"If you compare it to the first year, the team leader group has probably tripled! There are more people there who have wider responsibilities. And the number of spectators has been about the same for a few years now. But in the first year there were maybe something like 900 people?", Meri recalls.
Aino and Meri thought together that the number of spectators might not be a very good indicator, considering the effects of the Covid on everything. Meri says that every year some new stall seller has come and the growth has happened little by little. "But the growth has not been very fast, even though there is a big difference compared to the first year." Aino adds that the event's budget is four times that of the first year, if you only think about expenses.
Meri tells about the development of the event from the point of view of her own work: "Last year was the first time that we actually received some reasonable compensation for our work as well. That is also a big step forward. Before it has always been so that the work was done with the idea that someday we will get something out of it." Aino continues: "Yep. And we have actively strived for it too, because the event will not grow if we do not build work around it."
"Yes, and we’ve taken some big steps forward after last year's event - we’ve hired Maria and we have the Vierumäki Training Weekend, we are renting the rack and we have other activities around the event now too. I do consider it a significant development step for the future of the event", says Meri.
"But luckily we stuck determinedly to our plan and got Jonne to join us! I consider that to be at least one decisive factor - otherwise we wouldn't have had such great credibility in the first year", reflects Meri. "We wouldn’t have had anything different compared to other competitions!", adds Aino.
Meri thinks this is also proof that if you have an idea or a vision, you should stick to it - no matter what others say.
The first discussions with Jonne about co-operating took place at the afterparty of Unbroken at CrossFit Basement. "We made some smalltalk and I revealed that we had thought about organizing a competition and I asked if he was interested in being involved in some way", Meri recalls the time before the founding of Tuomiopäivä. We came back to the matter afterwards and Jonne decided to come along.
Another thing that many people mistake is that CrossFit Huntti would be the organizer of Turun Tuomiopäivä. In reality, Meri and Aino have their own company for Turun Tuomiopäivä and CrossFit Huntti is only a partner.
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT TURUN TUOMIOPÄIVÄ?
"Before Tuomiopäivä was founded, it was clear that we would need help in programming the events. We thought about asking Jonne Koski if he would come along", Meri begins. "We asked others for their opinion on this, but we didn't get much support for our idea. Many thought that we could as well program the events ourselves."
"The first discussions with Jonne about co-operating took place at the afterparty of Unbroken"
LAST YEAR WAS THE FIRST TIME AN ATHLETE FROM ABROAD COMPETED IN TURUN TUOMIOPÄIVÄ.
WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK DID YOU GET FROM SWISS ADRIAN MUNDWILER?
"After last year's competition, Mundi praised the atmosphere of the event as exceptionally good compared to other competitions and pointed out that this has potential for anything", says Meri.
Aino remembers that Adrian also praised the smoothness of the organizing, the locations and how it looked like at the venue.
WILL THERE EVER BE A MASTERS DIVISION?
There is no Masters division coming to Turun Tuomiopäivä in the near future. "Let's leave the Masters for others. For example, there is a great Linna Masters competition organized in Hämeenlinna", Meri answers.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
Meri and Aino agree on this: "More spectators, more top level competitors in the Elite division from around the world, more people in the stands also from outside the sport and more of all that fun around the events. More festival vibes!”
"More festival vibes!"