CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Kurents' presence may not be totally necessary this year. With the rest of season predicted to be so warm, we don't need the scary Slovenian monsters whose purpose is to scare away winter.
But they sure are fun to have around. The fifth annual Cleveland Kurentovanje festival takes place Saturday, Feb. 25.
This year's Eastern European winter fest will take place on St. Clair Avenue and East 55th Street. The event is headquartered at The Slovenian National Home Home, 6417 St. Clair Ave. Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday with food, drink and kids activities.
Kurentovanje, sort of a Slovenian Mardi Gras held the weekend before Lent begins, will feature a winter's end parade, Slovenian food and drink, cultural performances and, yes, an appearance by many, many fuzzy Kurents. These enormous mythical Slovenian monsters are meant to scare winter and welcome spring.
As Michael Fleming, executive director of the St. Clair Superior Development Corp., told The Plain Dealer last year, ""It's very, very different than anything else you've seen at an ethnic event in Cleveland. You've just got to see it."
The last festival attracted more than 5,000 attendees to the St. Clair-Superior area, which has been on an upswing in the last decade.
That included area Slovenians, but also other Clevelanders who wanted to explore the neighborhood that is in the midst of an urban renewal, from the birth of the Hub 55 complex on East 55th Street to the Upcycle shop on St. Clair Avenue.
This year's festival will give Kurent -- and beer -- fans even more chance to jump with happiness. The second annual Kurent Jump at the new Goldhorn Brewery will kick off the festivities Friday night.
A Kurent Jump is the first time that the Kurents appear in public, with their bells loudly ringing as they dance around a campfire, initiating the mission of chasing winter to make way for spring. This year's Kurent Jump will feature a complimentary drink, appetizers, live music, special Kurentovanje Pivo and tours of Goldhorn.
Noon Saturday: Parade kicks off traditional Kurentovanje, which will stretch through the neighborhood, departing Sterle's Country House 1401 East 55th St., proceeding down East 55th Street to St. Clair Avenue, and ultimately ending at the Slovenian National Home. The procession will include Kurents, polka and marching bands, dance troupes and other parading groups.
Until 6 p.m. Saturday: Live music and ethnic performances on indoor and covered/heated outdoor stages at the Slovenian National Home. Plus ethnic food and drinks, free face-painting and crafts for kids, ice carving demonstrations and bocce. Cleveland Kurentovanje, in partnership with the Cleveland Bocce Club, will be holding the first annual Kurentovanje Bocce Tournament at the Slovenian National Home.''
All day Saturday: Sterle's and Goldhorn Brewery, 1361 East 55th St., will be open for business with food, fun, beer and live entertainment.
Friday, Feb. 24: The Kurent Jump at Goldhorn will welcome the Kurents will beer, music, food and tours at 6 p.m. In addition to the spectacle of the Kurent Jump, attendees will enjoy a complimentary drink, appetizers, music, special Kurentovanje Pivo and Goldhorn tours. One hundred percent of all ticket sales will go directly toward offsetting the costs of Cleveland Kurentovanje, including the purchase of new Kurent costumes, which cost upward of $2,000 each.
Pre-sale tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite for $25 (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cleveland-kurent-jump-2017-tickets-30757550662) and at the door the day of for $30 (cash only).
Also: On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Slovenian Museum and Archives (6407 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland) will open an exhibit on the historical masks of Kurentovanje and other Mardi Gras celebrations. For centuries, masks have been used throughout Slovenia in the celebration of Mardi Gras -- the Kurent is the most well known Slovenian mask here in Cleveland, but in fact there are several others. The opening will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., and begin with a 45-minute presentation in English by Adela Pukl, a curator at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Admission is free and open to the public, and a spread of complimentary refreshments will be provided.
More information here: http://www.clevelandkurentovanje.com/schedule/.
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