Simply Slavic Festival is growing bigger Reaching across a culture

Published: 12:05 AM, Thu June, 15 2017

Staff report


Simply Slavic, the annual festival that has become a cornerstone of Youngstown’s colorful Slavic community, will take place Saturday from noon to midnight on East Federal Street, downtown.

Now in its seventh year, the event is growing. This year’s festival will feature an expanded children’s area, a flags display and an ethnic heritage tent.

Joining in the festival this year will be Jan Volny, mayor of Youngstown’s Sister City of Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia. Many Slovak and Rusyn families in Youngstown originate from the region of Spis, which is where the city is located. Volny will present a set of artisanal woodcarvings, which will be presented and installed in City Hall.

Mayors Volny and John McNally of Youngstown will cut the ribbon to open the festival. The Sister Cities program is dedicated to strengthening the cultural, business, educational and philanthropic connections between these two communities.

Simply Slavic has become more than a one-day event; it’s more like a movement.

By getting to know each other while working on the festival, Slavic community leaders have discovered various ways in which they can collaborate to educate each other and the community about Slavic cultures. The group also provides at least one scholarship each year to deserving Youngstown State University students.

Here’s a look at what’s new at this year’s festival:

Children’s area: There will be a Build Your Own Village, interactive falling Tetris game, “Baba Yaga’s Surprise” wheel and a chance to “Fish the Danube.” This, as well as the expanded Scavenger Hunt, will take young festival-goers on an adventure in which they will collect stamps and answers to a variety of history, culture and trivia questions.

Ecumenical blessing: The festival will celebrate the unity and diversity of the Slavic languages through song and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer by costumed volunteers in the languages spoken by the groups participating in this year festival.

National flags display: Flags of each of the 13 Slavic nations will create an educational display. A costumed parade will open the festival.

Ethnic Heritage Tent: Slavic groups will exhibit materials about their culture through maps, flags, pictures, language lessons and a display of famous immigrants. Wood-working artist Dennis DeSantis will create decorated Easter eggs in the style of each Slavic nation.

Tell Your Slavic Story: In this booth, festival-goers can share a story or memory about their experience with the Slavic culture. The goal is to bring the festival’s intimate setting to a new level. Story tellers’ messages will be recorded for historical purposes. The booth will be open from 2 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.

As always, Simply Slavic will feature the food, music, dance and customs of the various Slavic ethnicities, with live music, folk dance performances, homemade food, educational exhibits and ethnic vendors, including the following:

Slavic Kitchen, featuring booths of homemade foods from more than a half dozen area churches, businesses and ethnic groups.

Marketplace of vendors, selling imported dolls, eggs, linens and apparel.

Baking contest, where amateurs can submit their favorite traditional Slavic baked goods to be judged by area Slavic celebrities.

The Wasko Funeral Home stage, featuring music and entertainment, including the renowned Harmonia Folk Band in the evening.

A vatra, or traditional Slavic bonfire, after dark with live music played.

Serving as master of ceremonies of the event will be Larry Walk and Laurel Tombazzi.

The modern-day European nations representing the origins of Slavic ancestry are Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Many Slavic descendants of Carpatho-Rusyn heritage also reside in the Youngstown area. There are at least 75,000 Slavic people in the Youngstown area, according to the U.S. Census.

Local parishes and organizations involved in Simply Slavic include Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Sts. Peter and Paul Croatian Church, PolishYoungstown, the American Slovak Cultural Association of Mahoning Valley, the Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage Society and many others.

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