Mon 2/5-Sat 2/10
Be honest, what sounds crazier: A mythological figure called a Kurent — with roots in Slavic paganism — who scares away winter, or attending an outdoor parade during the dead of winter in Northeast Ohio?
No matter how you answer, remember nothing scares the Slovenians, which is why the Cleveland Kurentovanje (koo-rahn-toh-VAHN-yay) returns with numerous weeklong events culminating with a parade (E. 55th St. to St. Clair Ave.) and festival Sat 2/10 on the streets of the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood.
CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland Kurentovanje Organizer Nicole Kusold-Matheou about the Slovenian fun.
CoolCleveland: Here we are again in the dead of winter talking about Cleveland Kurentovanje. Why is this festival growing in popularity?
Nicole Kusold-Matheou: I think there are a few reasons Cleveland Kurentovanje is so appealing to people. First of all, given the fact that we live in a city with amongst one of the harshest winters in the nation, people really get behind the idea of chasing winters away to make room for spring, which is what the Kurents do. Second, there is such a rich tradition in Cleveland of embracing and celebrating other nationalities. That type of culture in the city helps draw people to events like Cleveland Kurentovanje.
CC: What’s new this year?
NKM: This year we’re excited to have four days of events during Cleveland Kurentovanje week. Two years ago, my husband and I visited Ptuj, Slovenia – the origin of Kurentovanje – and were amazed to see that the Kuretnovanje festivities spanned every day for several weeks with a multitude of different events. At Cleveland Kurentovanje, we’re continuing to expand the scope and duration our festivities. We’re really aiming to program events so that there is something for everyone’ during the course of the week.
CC: Tell us about this year’s events.
NKM: On February 5, Cleveland Kurentovanje has partnered with Dinner in the Dark and the CLE Dinner Club to present a multicourse dinner with wine pairings at the Slovenian National Home. Then on February 7, the Slovenian Museum and Archives will open the Contributions to Society by Slovenian Women exhibit, which is on loan from Slovenia. February 9 is the Kurent Jump, which will kick off the weekend festivities. As the Kurents emerge and start their mission of scaring away winter at Skidmark Garage and Ingenuity Cleveland, revelers will enjoy food, beer and music. Finally, on February 10, the Cleveland Kurentovanje parade and festival will take place with many musical and cultural performances, authentic food and drink, ice-carving demonstrations, kids activities and handmade crafts.
CC: What was the attendance last few years? What are you expecting this year?
NKM: Last year we had approximately 8,000-plus attendees. It’s funny to think back on our expectations for the first year we held this event in 2013. We thought we’d be lucky to get 200 people to attend. The number of people who come out to the parade and festival on February 10 is always contingent on the weather, so we’re never really sure how many people will attend. Back in 2015, there was a massive snow storm that had shut down the Shoreway and a number of other highways on the day of the parade. Despite the blizzard and snow, we still had about 2,000 people come out to celebrate and the Kurent’s still paraded down St. Clair. It was incredible.
CC: Are you surprised by the festival’s popularity?
NKM: I have to admit, I think we have been really surprised at how much traction Cleveland Kurentovanje has gotten over the years We are really grateful the numerous people who have supported the event — the attendees, volunteers, sponsors, vendors and many more. It’s really almost unbelievable.
CC: What’s the biggest misconception about the event?
NKM: If there was a misconception about the event, I guess it would be that people are only going to go if the weather is good. There is a Norwegian saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothing.” And that is totally applicable for Cleveland Kurentovanje. If it’s snowing, put on your snowsuit because the parade is still happening.
CC: Finally, why should people come out?
NKM: I’d invite people to come on out to have a good time at the parade and the other events throughout the week, eat some amazing food, have a shot or two of slivovitz and remember that spring is coming…soon.