Fri 2/21 @ 5:30-10PM
Sat 2/22 @ 10AM-5PM
Cleveland’s winter festival Kurentovanje started in 2013 as a mini-festival, patterned after a popular celebration, taking place in Ptuj, Solvenia, It was designed to draw attention to Cleveland’s Slovenian heritage.
The initial one-day festival, with a small parade on St. Clair, leading to an afternoon of activities at the National Slovenian Home on St. Clair and E. 65th, has grown into a week-long series of activities, with more added each year. The official event not features an early morning 5K race, and the number of people dressing up as the signature furry “kurents” — creature said to be chasing away the winter with their giant bells — has dramatically increased.
People (21 and over) can get psyched up at the “Kurent Jump,” taking place at the National Slovenian Home on Kurentovanje Eve. There will be hearty stews — including something you NEVER saw back in the days when Eastern European culture dominated Cleveland: a vegan option! — along with other foods and drinks available for purchase, and music by the lively young Chardon Polka Band, keeping the classic music going into another generation. At 8pm, the kurents will appear for the Kurent Jump ceremony, giving partygoers their first glimpse of them.
Attendees are advised to dress warmly, as the event will take place outside in heated tents and the appearances of the kurents will happen outside the tent. Tickets are $15 pre-sale, $20 at the door, and include one drink ticket.
Then comes the big day! Unless you’re one of those hardy types getting up early for the Second Annual 5K Kurent Dash, which takes off at 9am, you can start the day at 10am by bringing the kids to the National Slovenian Home to do some crafts and have their faces painting for the parade.
The parade steps off outside at noon, wending its way down St. Clair featuring delegations from local businesses, ethnic dance groups, polka bands, the St. Martin de Porres marching band, and of course, the small army of costumed kurents bringing up the rear. Kids who got there early to make a crafted piece can also join this informal parade. Everything converges in front of the Slovenian National Hall where the kurents are delighted to pose for photos with you and your kids.
Spend the rest of the afternoon inside the building where there’ll be food, drink, vendors, kids’ crafts, a bocce tournament, ice carving outdoors in the courtyard and a full lineup of performances by dance ensembles, polka bands and rock bands on several stages. And here’s yet another new element this year: the closing ceremony or “Pokop Pusta” in Slovenian where the festival is buried to lie dormant until next year. That takes place at 5pm.
The whole festival is free and open to everyone. Come in costume!