From 1880 until 1920, thousands of Slavic immigrants came to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to find employment in the area’s steel mills and coal mines. By 1920, 25 percent of Johnstown’s residents were of Slavic descent. They created a rich network of churches and social clubs to support their way of life and culture.
With the decline of the steel industry, Johnstown went through tough economic times in the 1970s and ‘80s. Many people found it necessary to leave the community. Johnstown’s ethnic organizations suffered. Today, many young people want to know about their ethnic heritage, and the culture and history of their Slavic ancestors.
The goal of the Johnstown Slavic Festival Committee is to create a new program that educates residents of the western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio region about their heritage. The first Johnstown Slavic Festival will be held during the summer of 2015. The group plans to present authentic Slavic music, Slavic folk dance performances, homemade Slavic food, children’s learning areas, educational speakers and exhibits, workshops, and ethnic vendors. A full day of entertainment and education is planned.
The committee is co-chaired by Dan Kisha and Dr. Gerald Zahorchak. The Slavic Festival Committee is seeking to add committee members, and plans to become incorporated. The Johnstown Area Heritage Association will provide technical and management support for the Johnstown Slavic Festival.
The date of the first Johnstown’s first Johnstown Slavic Festival will be announced in the near future. The Slavic Festival will be held in and near the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center, a former brewery building located in Johnstown’s Cambria City historic district. The Heritage Discovery Center houses an interactive exhibition titled America: Through Immigrant Eyes that puts visitors in role of being a recent Slavic immigrant to Johnstown 100 years ago. The Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown was the city’s principal immigrant settlement area.
By enhancing the region’s knowledge of these lively peoples through a joyful, family-friendly experience, the Slavic Festival Committee hopes to honor the shared past of our beloved ancestors by educating and enriching the lives of a future generation.
Admission to the Johnstown Slavic Festival will be free. The Slavic Festival Committee wants a large number of participants – descendents of Slavic families and the general public – to attend. The cost of presenting the event will be around $15,000. Sponsorships are being sought to offset the costs of the event.
Numerous respected organizations, churches and businesses from Johnstown and the western Pennsylvania area have already enthusiastically signed on to support and participate in this effort. These include the City of Johnstown, Slovenian Savings & Loan, Johnstown Welding & Fabrication Industries, Somerset Trust Bank, Sokol USA, Slovak Catholic Sokol, and many others.
The Johnstown Slavic Festival website has just been placed online for all to see at: http://www.johnstownslavicfestival.org.
Please explore our website to see photos, maps and information regarding not only the festival, but also general information which may begin your journey learning more about your ancestry and the beautiful places in Europe from which your Slavic ancestors originated. We will also work year-round to provide information regarding local and regional Slavic ethnic performances, picnics, and festivals on our http://www.johnstownslavicfestival.org website pages and our Johnstown Slavic Facebook page.
For additional information, contact Daniel Kisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.