Slavic culture honored in downtown Youngstown

Correspondent photo / Bandon Cantwell... Saturday's festivities at Simply Slavic began with a parade featurig the flags of all Slavic countries and people from various Slavic nationalities. The event took place in downtown Youngstown along East Federal Street.

YOUNGSTOWN — Slavic culture came alive in the center of downtown Youngstown after a two-year hiatus.

Saturday’s festivities at the Simply Slavic event began with a parade featuring the flags of all Slavic countries and people from varying Slavic nationalities, as well as the strolling beverage-table girl — a feature that has become a symbol of the event. A choir then performed the Ukrainian national anthem.

The festivities began on Friday.

John Slanina, president of Simply Slavic, considers the event’s in-person return to be glorious.

“It is glorious to be here with so many people, not only people who live in the Mahoning Valley, but tourists who come from other states to visit our festival. We meet so many people who (now) travel here. We are honored to be ambassadors not only for the Slavic countries, but for Youngstown, too.

There were challenges to hosting the event, especially this year, Slanina noted.

“There’s price increases here and there.” Slanina said. “We kept our entrance fee the same, but there are price increases on the trickle-down. We tried to maintain this as an affordable, enjoyable festival.”

The event had been hosted virtually due to the pandemic, until this year’s live return.

Aundrea Cika, one of the event’s organizers, compared hosting the event online to broadcasting a TV show.

“At first we went into it like, ‘Oh well, we just have to videotape what we do.’ But there was so much more. In reality we became (TV) producers.” she said.

Overall, she said hosting the event in person is so much easier — despite it taking eight or nine months of work to produce.

Tanya Hankovich of Youngstown said the festival’s return is wonderful. Hankovich said she has been attending since the very beginning, when the festival was merely a small tent seven years ago. She said she feels that it is especially important to her this year, as she is representing Ukraine.

Ed Robich, 75, of Hermitage, Pa., said he is happy the festival is now two days long.

Simply Slavic included many elements. A display of flags such as from Slavic nations, a tent with a multitude of ethnic heritages, live music, and workshops on egg decorating, paper crafts, wooden bird-carving and genealogy.



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