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Out & About in Cleveland

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Holi-Festival of Color at Freiberger Field; 35th annual Button Box Bash; 2017 St. Patrick's Day Parade Awards

On Sunday, April 9th, there were some very promising ethnic events taking place and we are so sorry that we could not attend all of them due to the time element. Therefore, before we talk about the three that we did manage to attend, we want to acknowledge the other ones which were the "Kaffestuga!" at Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Swedish); the Chicken Paprikash Dinner at DTJ Taborville (Czech); Sober Seder at Temple Ner Tamid (Jewish); and the opening reception for the Croatian Folk Dress exhibit at the Croatian Heritage Museum and express our best wishes that they all came off quite well.

As for those that we did attend, the first one was "Holi-Festival of Color" which took place at Freiberger Field at CWRU. According to "Wikipedia" Holi is "a Hindu spring festival celebrated in India and Nepal, also known as the 'festival of colors' or the 'festival of love'. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet other, play and laugh, forget and forgive and repair broken relationships."

We spoke to Ms. Marisha Kazi, President of the Undergraduate Indian Studies Association at CWRU, who told us that was certainly what they were aiming for with the emphasis on bringing people together for a time of "merriment."

Just like in its countries of origin, festival goers at CWRU playfully threw small bags of colored powder at each other and drenched each other with water; there was even a slip-and-slide. Of course, our good friend DJ Kris Koch was there to contribute Indian music to the proceedings and there was plenty of Indian food.

Since we had other events to attend, we were not about to engage in the activities involving colored powder or water but we did do a good job flying a kite on this warm, windy day. Let us now say that next year we plan to attend wearing shorts and a t-shirt so we can go all out with the celebration.

Our second event was the 35th annual Button Box Bash which took place at the Slovenian National Home on Recher Avenue in Euclid. We love polka music and really look forward to attending this event each year. As we have written before, accomplished dancing is not our forte but we still loved doing it the best that we could to the music of the "Slovene American Button Box Club".

In between dances, we spoke with Mr. Tom Mroczka and Ms. Sharon Staiduhar, Trustees of the Cleveland Polka Hall of Fame, about the significance of polka to our Cleveland heritage.

Later we did some research and found a website at http://www.polkahome.com/history-polkamusic.html where we found an essay titled "A Brief History of Slovenian and Cleveland-Style Polka Music" that read in part:

"When one talks about Slovenian-Style polka they speak of an Americanized style of the music based upon the traditional Slovenian folk songs. This style of music came about when immigrants from Slovenia taught the old songs to their children.  These children, as adults, translated the old traditional lyrics from Slovene into English, and arranged them in a polka beat. In the beginning Slovenian-Style polka was just music for local ethnic clubs and union halls.  It is usually associated with Cleveland and other Midwestern cities as that is where most Slovenian immigrants put their roots down when they came to America....Old time ethnic music is what Frankie Yankovic and his colleagues played. These polkas are mostly popularized versions of many different tunes and dances from the original folk music from Slovenia and surrounding countries. The repertoires of polka artists is not simply one type of dance music suggested by the term polka but are rather a large variety of pieces of music styles including waltzes and jazzy style of polkas. The Cleveland-Style of polka music is generally played at a faster tempo and features different instrumentation than the traditional music. The polka bands from Cleveland always included two accordions with at least one piano accordion, a chromatic accordion, or button box, a saxophone or clarinet, and a rhythm section including such instruments as drums, bass, and banjo. The main melody instruments in the band were the accordion and the saxophone. The epicenter of the Slovenian & Cleveland-Style of polka is undoubtedly Cleveland, "The Polka Town", and northeast Ohio, but it is also popular in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin." 

After reading this, our observation is that Slovenian/Cleveland polka is an excellent example of a tradition that was transported to the United States from its country of origin. Once here, those that practiced the tradition added to it their own unique qualities/talents while honoring its roots.

We could only stay a short while at the Button Box Bash because we had to get to the East Side Irish American Club by 3pm in order to attend the 2017 St. Patrick's Day Parade Awards Banquet in which 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places awards were distributed to those who truly excelled in a variety of categories including those of bagpipe bands, parade floats, and marching units.

We shared a table with Mr. Dave McLaughlin and his family. Mr. McLaughlin has been involved with the parade for many years and is an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. On this day, as a deputy director of the parade, he presented the "Honor Guard" awards.

Also at our table was Mr. Bruce Greiger, the noted player of bagpipes who we have talked to several times over the last few years. On this day he was accompanied by Ms. Linda Baron (who plays drums) and they accepted an award on behalf of the "Irish American Club East Side Pipes and Drums" band.

On our way to dish up our supper, we were hailed by Judge Jimmy L. Jackson, Jr. of Cleveland Municipal Court who told us that he appreciated Ms. Wong taking the time to talk with him about ways he could make his courtroom more sensitive to the needs of immigrants and refugees. We, ourselves, respect Judge Jackson for being so concerned about this matter and wish him well.

It was interesting to encounter Mr. Gary Smrdel both at the Button Box Bash and at the Awards Banquet. As it turned out, Mr. Smrdel's wife is Irish and he, himself, is Slovenian. Since the Button Box Bash was scheduled to go on until 9pm, he looked forward to returning to it after the Awards Banquet concluded around 6pm. As for ourselves, we would have liked to accompany him but after three events in one afternoon we were a bit to tired to kick up our heels once more.

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC