Half Way To Simply Slavic Wrap Up

The Slavic Clans of the Mahoning Valley gathered at the Lemon Grove Café on Friday, December 2, 2011. This was a first-ever Simply Slavic event held indoors and was organized to raise funds to help defray costs associated with the large outdoor festival held each June in Downtown Youngstown. The evening was filled with Slavic-themed entertainment non-stop from 5 pm until 2:30 am. Also featured during the event were several imported beers from some of the Slavic nations, šljivovica- the potent plum brandy beloved by so many Slavs, and an extremely popular kolachi tasting. A Russian-inspired Beef Stroganoff plate was offered by the Lemon Grove chefs to help maintain the Slavic theme of the evening. Special drawings were held and enabled event organizers Dave Slanina, John Slanina, Ken Shirilla and Aundréa Cika-Heschmeyer to mingle with the crowd sprinkled with local descendents representing most of the lands where Slavs originated in Europe. Even a smattering of people wearing ethnic costumes could be seen among the revelers, and those were rewarded with a chance at a special prize.

As people began to file into the Lemon Grove, Simply Slavic co-founder Ken Shirilla presented an educational slide show featuring photos from the June heritage festival and also photos of stunning scenes from each of the 13 Slavic nations of Europe: Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Music from many of those nations was played during the presentation. Many friends in attendance who had never traveled to the Slavic countries were shocked at the natural and architectural beauty presented during the slide show featuring the post-iron curtain scenes from the lands of the Slavs.

Local performing artist Jamie Marich followed and provided an amazing array of music including songs from former Yugoslavian republics including Christmas music, plus some American folk standards which were appreciated by the English-speaking friends in attendance. People sang along to the songs they knew and tapped their toes to the ones they weren't familiar with. The talents of our local performers are something the people of the Mahoning Valley can truly be proud of!

Around 9pm , the internationally known and Chicago-based band Eastern Blok provided the crowd with their special fusion of Balkan inspired jazz. The genre defies description, but the quartet led by acclaimed classical guitarist Goran Ivanovic wowed the crowd with their sounds. They played selections from their newly released CD titled Underwater. Youngstown was one of the stops on their "eastern" tour which included the cities of Buffalo, Boston and New York City, among others. Other band members are Doug Rosenberg, Matt Ulery and Michael Caskey. They even played a few selections that enabled dancers to perform the "Kolo", the circular communal dance popular with many of the Slavic cultures.

The evening concluded with the high-energy dance sounds of the Slavic Euro Disco presented by local DJ Richard Elmsworth. This form of entertainment is still popular in Europe and is a must at most parties, wedding receptions and anywhere many younger Slavs gather. DJ Richie seamlessly transitioned from one modern Slavic dance genre to another- Disco Polo, Russki Pop, Balkan Turbo-Folk and Chalga. So many people not familiar with the music soon realized that there is a much larger music world beyond the confines of our Mahoning Valley. That was one of the missions of the evening and also of the organization known as Simply Slavic- to educate about Slavic cultures through entertainment. It can be said that "a good time was had by all"!