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Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce Coffee Contacts; 4th Annual Slovenian Style Dinner

Even though Wednesday, June 22nd, in Cleveland was largely dominated by the parade celebrating the victory of the CAVS in the NBA finals, we still found two other events to attend.

First off, we went to an Eastern Lake County Chamberber of Commerce Coffee Contacts. This one was held at Sabo's Woodside Nursery on North Ridge Road in Madison.

IMG_2292About 25 people were there and we really liked talking to Mr. David Thomas, Assistant Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations, at the Grand River Academy in Austinburg, Ohio. We had previously met him when we both took part in the fly-in to Washington, DC about two months ago. We learned that the Grand IMG_2282River Academy has been in existence for 185 years and part of its appeal is that the student body only totals 100 thus enabling the students to have a more intimate educational experience.

Mr. Thomas told us that there are perhaps 40 international students enrolled there at this time from such countries as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Canada, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Palestine, and the Ukraine.

These young people are very high achievers and Grand River Academy gives them the tools to overcome language and cultural barriers.

IMG_2291Mr. Brian Sabo, the nursery owner was happy to take us on a tour of the facility and its greenhouses. We learnedthat the nursery was established in this location in 1983 and by 1994 its whole output was produced in greenhouses. Some of the special soils that are used are shipped in from such far away places as Sri Lanka.

As we walked through the structures,  Mr. Sabo asked us to "excuse all the dirt but soil is what we work with."

  On Wednesday night we went to the Willoughby Hills Community Center for the 4th annual "Slovenian Style Dinner" organized by  Willoughby Hills Councilman-at-Large John Plecnik who is also a Law Professor at Cleveland State University.

We had met Councilman Plecnik (who is amazingly only 33 years old) at a City Club event several years ago and he graciously invited us to this gathering each year but this was the first time that it's timing and our schedule came together and we got to go.

Music for the evening was provided by the Polka Pirates and Councilman Plecnik greeted us warmly reminding us that June 25th will be the anniversary of Slovenia's independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991.

We talked for a minute with Mr. David Fell from Kirtland who agreed with us on the need for immigration reform; his main concern was that criminals should not be not be allowed to remain here and we told him how much we agreed.IMG_2294

We sat down for a few minutes and spoke with Councilman Plecnik's father who is a retired philosophy professor. Prof. Plecnik, Sr. told us that he immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia (composed of different republics at the time and Slovenia was one of them) back in 1956 when he was 11 years old. He talked to us about his early life and how much he enjoyed attending picnics organized by local firemen and how lovely the area of Yugoslavia/Slovenia was where he lived. He compared it to the Shenandoah Valley.

We then enjoyed a great dinner prepared by Councilman Plecnik's aunt, Ms. Linda Plecnik, composed of Slovenian sausage, chicken, potatoes, sauerkraut, green beans and salad. In addition, there were some great pastries like IMG_2297apple strudel for dessert.

We shared a table with Mr. Tom Tuttle, Mentor School Board member and candidate for Lake County Treasurer.

Also at our table was "Cleveland's Polka Ambassador" Mr. Tony Petkovsek so we talked about polka and how we could develop a deeper appreciation for it.

The brief program was introduced by Willoughby Hills Councilwoman Janet R. Majka who thanked everyone who made it there despite the huge crowds and the traffic jams of downtown Cleveland. She went onto say that there was nothing like sitting down with friends and enjoying Slovenian food.

When Councilman Plecnik spoke he praised the CAVS victory as an addition to the series of events that have signified a turning point for the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio area and then urged us to make sure that we are entering our greatest age.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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