“Slovenian Mardi Gras”

On Friday and Saturday, March 1st and 2nd, we spent quite a bit of time enjoying the festivities of the Cleveland Kurentovanje Carnival, or “Slovenian Mardi Gras.”  This festival celebrates the end of winter and the coming of Spring which will officially arrive on March 20th, although Accuweather indicates that those of us in Cleveland will be the recipient of temperatures in the consistent 40’s a few days before that time.

Founded in 2013 and organized by volunteers like Ms. Mary Ann Vogel and Ms. Vickie Zak, who serve on the ad hoc committee, the mission of Cleveland Kurentovanje is to promote and celebrate Slovenian culture; to create a fun experience for festival-goers, and to use the energy from the event to contribute to the momentum in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, which historically was the home for generations of Slovenian immigrants.

(see http://www.clevelandkurentovanje.com/about/)

Actually the festival was composed of various happenings from February 25th through March 2nd which mostly took place at either the Slovenian Museum and Archives or the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair Avenue.  One of the events that we are sorry that we missed was a presentation by Slovenian Consul General Mr. Andrej Rode regarding Slovenian dual citizenship that took place earlier in the week.

We, ourselves, got involved on Friday evening when we attended the “Kurent Jump” at the Hermit Club at Hofbräuhaus Cleveland on Chester Avenue which marked the arrival of the “kurents” which, as we know, are either feathery or horned creatures clothed in sheepskin and wearing chains with clanging bells attached. In accordance with their purpose of frightening away winter, they look scary enough to do so and carry large clubs to ensure success.

While we waited for the kurents to arrive, we listened to the Rob DeBlander and his polka band (from Detroit) and munched on Slovenian pastry. Finally, around 8pm, all of us put on our overcoats and gathered by the large, warm bonfire outside on the patio to greet the kurents with loud cheers laced with musical accompaniment.

The next day we bundled up warm and headed over to the Slovenian National Home to watch the Kurentovanje parade that begin at noon. Ms. Vogel acted as the announcer and reminded us that the Slovenian culture is distinguished by the traits of close families, great food and hospitality. We also learned that not only had festival-goers come to us from all over Ohio as well as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin; in fact, there were even a small number of participants who were actually from Slovenia and, yes, a couple of them had dual citizenship

Before the parade started, we did a walk-through of the festival that was taking place inside where, not surprisingly, we found the pierogi line to be a bit long but we still had time to say hello to our friend Mr. Alan Dutka, the author of such books as “Slovenians in Cleveland” and Ms. Betty Bilicic, Sales Manager with Kollander World Travel who were both tabling there.

Soon it was time to brave the cold and watch the parade which was composed of entries from such places as  St. Vitus Adult Slovenian School; PIAST, the Polish Folk Song and Dance Ensemble; the American Red Cross; the PIRC Company which does landscaping/snowplowing owned and operated by a family of Slovenian descent; St. Martin De Porres High School; as well as those from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Parade in the Circle who enacted a caterpillar and butterfly..

In addition, there was a float depicting the highest mountain peak in Slovenia and, of course, the kurents who were, once again, gratefully received by all of us who hoped that they would do well  in their quest to bring spring upon us, especially in light of formidable heating bills…