In mid-February, just outside of the Slovenian National Home, many Clevelanders will voluntarily line up along St. Clair (just east of E. 55th) to watch a parade featuring giant furry mask-wearing creatures that wave their clubs and ring a bell that hangs on a chain around their waists.
These creatures, called Kurents, come to chase away the winter and usher in the spring – something all Clevelanders can appreciate – during a festival called Kurentovanje.
This Ptuj, Slovenia carnival spin-off is now in its third year, taking place Saturday, February 14, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the grounds of the Slovenian National Home, where there’s traditional music, Slovenian gifts, and plenty of food.
Food vendors are spread all throughout the grounds – in the bar area, in back rooms in the basement, along the walls of the ballroom, and outside along the side and in back. Some booths are out in the open while others seemed to be wedged in tight areas. So it’s a good idea to really comb through the grounds, read all the menus and know all your choices.
Popular items include delicious sausage sandwiches (especially if the sausages comes from neighborhood butchers) and the fried dough called krofe which is usually made by ladies right in the neighborhood. Other dishes can include pierogi, mac and cheese, roast beef sandwiches, burgers topped with a hash brown patty (YUM!), strudel and whatever the food trucks may write on their boards that morning.
This year’s fest coincidentally occurs on Valentine’s Day, making it the perfect excuse to dance away a romantic evening with your loved one to the best polka hits available. I wouldn’t even be surprised if someone was selling chocolate there, among the many Slovenian sweets.
If you happen to be single, you might want to chat up a Kurent, who are traditionally single men.
You will definitely find some slivovitz, a distilled alcoholic beverage, to warm you up, and to give you a little extra nerve.
As with many festivals, you’ll probably be grateful you have some cash on hand for some of the smaller vendors.
If you have attended, tell us some of your favorite things about Kurentovanje, other than that part about scaring winter away. We can all get behind that!
**Follow Kristian’s travels to Ohio Festivals on his blog!