Simply Slavic Festival will celebrate colorful culture

Staff report


Simply Slavic, the downtown festival that celebrates the area’s Slavic community, will be Saturday from noon to midnight on East Federal Street.

The event began in 2011 to educate the region’s large number of Slavic descendants and the community-at-large about Slavic heritage.

“Simply Slavic has become more than a one-day event,” said Ken Shirilla, event chairman. “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.”

Supporting the start and growth of the Slavic Student Association at Youngstown State University is one such project. But this time of year, everyone’s efforts are on the big festival.

Keeping with its mission, the event will showcase the rich traditions of the Mahoning Valley’s Slavic culture by celebrating the food, music dance and customs of the various Slavic ethnicities represented here.

Highlights will include:

An Ecumenical Blessing and Parade of Flags with representatives from a variety of faiths and parishes featuring one of the region’s ethnic choirs.

A Slavic Kitchen featuring homemade foods from several area churches, businesses and ethnic groups.

An Ethnic Heritage Tent where each of the Slavic groups will create exhibits to educate visitors on the culture of their region through items like maps, flags, pictures, language lessons and information on famous immigrants from that country.

A marketplace of vendors selling imported dolls, eggs, linens and apparel reflecting the varied nations of the festival.

A baking contest in which amateurs can submit their favorite traditional items to be judged by area Slavic celebrities.

The Wasko Stage, featuring music and entertainment throughout the day, including four of the region’s most colorful folk dance troupes, the Del Sinchak polka band and the renowned Harmonia Folk Band, showcasing the concert and dance music of Eastern European.

The festival, now in its third year, is expanding.

“For 2013, we are expanding and improving the festival site to two city blocks to give our guests more elbow room and allow people to interact in a better street fair-like layout,” Shirilla said. “We also will have more food vendors to feed the people later into the day and provide non-stop live entertainment until midnight.”

Also new this year, the festival will present two $500 scholarships to students attending Youngstown State University.

Several new vendors have been added as well, including Recultured Designs of Michigan. Their wares can be viewed at

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.

Local parishes and organizations participating in the festival include Sts. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, PolishYoungstown, the American Slovak Cultural Association of Mahoning Valley, the Carpatho-Rusyn Heritage Society, and others.

To get folks ready for the festival, a couple of community outreach programs were held that included dance lessons, demonstrations and workshops.. The events were June 3 at Canfield Village Middle School and at Sts. Peter and Paul Croatian Church Hall in Youngstown.

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