Fesr emphasizes family, but also the 13 authentic foods

By Sean Barron



As Catherine Katrenich was serving Sljivovica for $5 a shot, she also was allowing some people to recall memories they likely found to be priceless.

“I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that their grandparents used to drink this or make this,” she said, referring to the alcoholic beverage, which is a plum-flavored brandy from Croatia that likely also brought back fond memories for many who tried it.

Katrenich’s headgear and outfit were an amalgamation of costumes that represent the 13 modern-day countries that make up Slavic ancestry.

Her garb also was a colorful attraction for the eighth annual Simply Slavic festival, which began with a three-hour street party Friday evening and continued Saturday on East Federal Street downtown.

Katrenich, who also was selling a homemade lemon vodka from Poland for $5 per shot, was literally a centerpiece for a table on wheels, because her upper body protruded through a hole in the middle and her dress covered the top and was draped around the sides like a tablecloth.

In addition, Katrenich, who lives in the Cleveland area, is considered a Rodina, which means family and is a name for a beautiful woman, said Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, an event organizer.

“The core value was the significance of family, whether it was the family they left behind [in the European countries] or the family they started here in Youngstown. Today we express that sentiment more broadly when we claim as family not just our relatives, but the people with whom we choose to celebrate life,” she explained, referring to the festival’s main emphasis.

Many attendees opted to celebrate not only the fest’s emphasis on family, but also the 13 authentic foods, as well as the entertainment and ethnic desserts. For example, Greensburg, Pa.-based Steel City Chimneys was so busy at one point Saturday afternoon selling chimney-shaped cakes that patrons had to be placed on a waiting list.

The artisan-style yeast pastries, $7 apiece, are coated with organic cane sugar, are made from yeast dough, wrapped around wooden dowels and cooked on a rotisserie grill before flavors that include vanilla, cinnamon and walnut are added. Occasionally, chocolate and caramel sauces can be included.

The treats are based on a centuries-old recipe.

Also pleased with the festivities and Saturday’s large turnout was Sandy Slanina, whose sons, John and Dave Slanina, helped organize the festival to celebrate Slavic heritage, ancestry, customs, culture and traditions.

“We try to do something different at the fest each year,” she said.

Saturday’s entertainment lineup included the popular Del Sinchak band, Jack Vasko, the Happy Hearts Junior Tamburitzans, the Lucina Slovak Folklore Ensemble of Cleveland and the Harmonia Folk Ensemble.

The event ended with Harmonia performing acoustic music with traditional folk instruments, as well as violin dance music, around a Vatra fire, which was lit in a metal fire pit and is often held to mark important dates, in this case, the beginning of summer.

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