On Feb. 11, The Kurent, a legendary figure believed to have the power to drive out winter and usher in spring, will awaken. Kurent Jump, which runs from 5:30 to 10 p.m. that Saturday at the Slovenian National Home, acts as a party initiating the Kurent quest of chasing the cold months away — the first nine days of the Cleveland Kurentovanje festival leading up to Lent.
“Every year we try to create programming that hits on our mission, which is promoting Slovenian culture, promoting the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood and then also just having a great time,” says Cleveland Kurentovanje event chair, Nicole Kusold-Matheou. “This year we have nine days of events and we are full of different sort of arts and cultural educational opportunities for people.“
Following a sold out Kurent Jump celebration, The Land will bask in more than a week of Slovenian culture, from all the polka you can handle to a showing of the LGBT-focused documentary LGBT_SLO 1984.
“It documents the history of the LGBT movement in Slovenia and I think a lot of people, including myself, were surprised to hear that this was even a thing” Kusold-Matheou says. “You know, this small, relatively conservative Alpine country … was really at the epicenter of progressive culture, during the 80s and 90s.”
Festivities wrap up with the main festival and parade on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Commemorated every year in Slovenia, the festival creates a colorful and ethnically rich opportunity for merry celebration. Not to mention, it’s traditionally the first time the horned, coffee- and cream- colored monsters adorned with colorful ribbons and cowbells are seen in public as they dance around campfires.
The Slovenian tradition reached the United States in 2013 when the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood adopted the celebration in Cleveland — the city being a hub for Slovenians since the 1880s, according to member of the Slovenian National Home Board of Directors Gerri Hopkins, whose grandparents immigrated in the 1890's and grew up in the area.
“The Slovenians settled in this area in the late 1800s into the 60s” Hopkins says. “It was just a very compact area for Slovenians to come and settle because a lot of the stores spoke the same language, the people running the stores would talk to you in your language.”
Her friend, and president of Friends of Slovenian National Home Inc., Shelli Slapnik adds nostalgically “it was like their own little village here back then.”
The sold-out, adults-only Kurent Jump event will open its doors at 5:30 p.m. If you have tickets, get ready to party with the Chardon Polka Band in the main hall of the Slovenian National Home from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Polka is the “traditional folk music of Slovenia,” Kusold-Matheou says. “When [Slovenian-Americans] hear this music they feel like all this nostalgia because it’s music that we’ve heard our whole lives”
Delicious Slovenian dishes, delicacies, and drinks will be sold at the jump, as well, and the Kurenti should be waking up around 8 p.m. in the courtyard. Bundle up to enjoy the outdoor spectacle.
“We’re always exploring the idea of ‘what does it mean to be a Slovenian?’ and also wanting to share that culture with other people who aren’t Slovenian in a way that…we’re hitting on universally appealing ideas and themes,” Kusold-Matheou says.
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