By Laura DeMarco. The Plain Dealer.
With a winter this brutal, we should really be ready to chase it away by March 1. We’ll have a little help from the Kurent – a mythical Slovenian figure who is believed to usher in spring.
The Kurent – make that many Kurents – will be visiting Cleveland Saturday, March 1, as part of the second annual Cleveland Kurentovanje festival. Held in the ethnically rich St. Clair-Superior Avenue area on St. Clair Ave. between Addison Ave. and East 62ndStreet, Kurentovanje will feature a winter’s end parade, Slovenian food and drink, cultural performances, a parade, and, yes, an appearance by many many fuzzy Kurents.
Last year’s inaugural fest attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 attendees, says Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation
That included many area Slovenes, but also other Clevelanders who wanted to explore the area that is in the midst of an urban renewal, from the revival of Sterle’s Country House to the trendy Cleveland Flea shopping events.
“We were looking at ways of marketing the area more in 2012,” says Fleming, “And we heard about this funny event that is really one of the most popular festivals in Slovenia, it’s like Carnival. We thought it would be a great way to bring in spring in the neighborhood, and bring people to the neighborhood.”
This year’s Kurentovanje festival will feature a parade of Kurents, bands and other groups at noon, from St. Vitus Church on Lausche Ave. to the Slovenian National Home on St. Clair; a party from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Slovenian National Home with ethnic food including krofe and sausage sandwiches, wine, beer, music and dance; and a 6 p.m. to midnight After Party with schnitzel and polka at Sterle’s Country House, where the Bier Garden will be open all day. There will also be more crafting stations for kids this year.
“The reception of the festival was very good last year, we expect it to grow,” says Fleming. “There’s a lot of nostalgia for the neighborhood from people who used to live there. And then there are younger people who have never been there or heard of it before and who were very impressed by what they saw, the great houses and neighborhood that has withstood the test of time and foreclosure.”
And then there’s the parade.
“It’s very, very different than anything else you’ve seen at an ethnic event in Cleveland,” says Fleming. “You’ve just got to see it.”