Second Johnstown Slavic Festival

(JOHNSTOWN, Pa.) – The second Johnstown Slavic Festival is coming to town on Saturday, September 17, with Slavic music, dance, food, speakers, cooking demonstrations, crafts, children’s activities, and more. The free festival will be held in the parking lot and courtyard of the Heritage Discovery Center in Johnstown.

Dr. Gerald Zahorchak, a member of the committee that works to produce the Slavic Festival, said, “I’m pleased to be a part of a community where residents truly honor and respect their roots. This year’s Festival builds on last year’s great debut. The all-day event provides a terrific place for thousands to gather and enjoy authentic food, lectures and entertainment while learning more about the wonderful Slavic nations whose people came to help build America.”

Music and dance programs presented at the 2016 Slavic Festival will including tamburitza music, Ukrainian fold dance, Balkan Brass music, and polka. The stage for the performances will be located in the Heritage Discovery Center parking lot.

Speakers on a wide range of related topics will be presented in the Education Center of the Heritage Discovery Center. Food demonstrations will be presented in the café of the Heritage Center.

Authentic Slavic food will be sold in the courtyard of the Heritage Discovery Center. Vendors include St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church (Conemaugh), serving halusky and pugich; Kraus Polish Deli (Youngstown), with pierogi, kelibasa sandwiches, stuffed cabbage and more; Darlington Inn, with gulas, borsch, halupky and more; St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, with chevop sausage sandwiches; the Phoenix, serving Slavic specialties; and Custom Cakes and Cookies (Johnstown), with nut rolls and cookies. Beer imported from Slavic countries will also be available for sale.

Several Slavic crafts vendors will have wares for sale, as well as non-profit Slavic heritage organizations. A Bulgarian cooking demonstration will also be presented.

Discounted admission to the Heritage Discovery Center of $5 will be offered during the Slavic Festival. Exhibits include “America :Through Immigrants’ Eyes,” an interactive experience that puts the visitor in the place of a recent immigrant to Johnstown 100 years ago, as well as the multi-media program “The Mystery of Steel.”

“The festival is a terrific tie-in to the exhibits and presentations at the Heritage Discovery Center,” said Richard Burkert, JAHA president. “Many of the immigrants to the area who came to work in the mills and mines of Johnstown were Slavs.”

The Slavic people immigrated from nations we know today as Belarus, Bosnia and Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, and Ukraine. The Slavs also include the Carpatho-Rusyn people, whose descendants are present in our area.

From 1880 until 1920, thousands of Slavic immigrants came to Johnstown to find employment in the area’s mills and 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.

The festival is being organized by a volunteer committee. Members include Dan Kisha, Dr. Gerald Zahorcak, Barry and MaryAnn McCaffrey Ritko, Ed Cernic, Sr., Brian Subich, Mike Kozak, Suzette Gardenhour, and Rick Kopco.

More than 25 donors supported the first year of the festival, and contributions are still being sought. Major sponsors for the Johnstown Slavic Festival are Best Window and Door Company, ProVia, 1st Summit Bank, and IMAC. The Johnstown Area Heritage Association has provided organizational and technical support for the festival.

Paid parking is available in the Best Window lot on Sixth Avenue, near Broad Street.
Information about the Slavic Festival can be found at

Entertainment Schedule:

1:00-2:00: Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble (Pittsburgh). The Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble prides itself in being a training ground for young dancers. In 1994 the children’s classes were combined into a formal school under the directorship of Natalie M. Kapeluck. A curriculum for teaching a mixture of traditional Ukrainian Folk dance and ballet technique evolved. Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and School has performed throughout the eastern United States. Kyiv believes that Ukrainian Folk Dancing should be learned and enjoyed by all people.

2:00-3:00: Czech & Slovak Moravian Club Folk Dance Group (Binghamton, N.Y.). This folk dance group was organized in 1977 and presents folk dances from the Czech, Moravian and Slovak regions to authentic folk music. The dancers’ folk attire is of the villages or areas their families came from. They have performed in a wide variety of cities at many ethnic festivals and venues, including the New York State Fair (for 30+ years), Statue of Liberty, Czech and Slovak school in Astoria (NY), State College (PA), Washington D.C., Cleveland, Toronto, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. At the 2009 Czech International Folk Fest in Prague (2009), the group received 3rd place.

3:00-5:00: The Mikey Dee Band (East McKeesport, PA). The Mikey Dee Band will play a mix of polka and tamburitza band music. The Mikey Dee Band was organized in 1988. In 1990, he recorded his first records “Don’t Cry My Darling Polka” and “Euclid Vet’s Polka”. Mikey Dee has performed in many tamburitza bands through the years, and has had his own Tamburitza band (Mikey Dee Tamburica Stars) since 2004. In the polka field, Mikey played bass and keyboards for two years with Jack Tady and the Tady Bears, traveling everywhere from Chicago to the Catskills. He has also performed with Frankie Yankovic, Dick Tady, Walter Ostanek, Polka Quads, Ray Skovenski, Gene Peterson Trio, Delmars, The Barons, Dorothy and Co., Sensations, Sounder, Harold Betters and The Jack Fronhofer band.

Mikey Dee has recorded and produced twenty albums and numerous singles to date, ranging from polkas and tamburitza music to country-western and standards, and was a studio musician for Oakhill records and B & M Studio and a recording producer and advisor at McKeesport’s Soundscape Studio. Currently, Mikey performs around 220 shows a year, playing everything from oldies to ballroom, polkas to tamburitza.

5:00-6:00: Pittsburgh Slovakians: Pittsburgh’s oldest Slovak Cultural Organization. The Pittsburgh Slovakians have been spreading Slovak Culture in and around the Pittsburgh area since they were founded in 1956 by Roman Niznik. Since Roman’s untimely death in 1977, the Ensemble has been under the direction of Rudy and Sue Ondrejco. The “Slovakians” perform annually at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, Slovak Day in Kennywood Park, and at the Slovak Heritage Festival at the University of Pittsburgh. They also provide entertainment at many other festivals, conventions, and social events in the tri-state area throughout the year. The ensemble has also enjoyed opportunities for performing tours in Slovakia in 1989 and 1997.

6:00-8:00: Rosie & the Jammers (Johnstown): This upbeat five-piece act has been a staple at Johnstown events and festivals for eighteen years. Rosie and The Jammers bring high energy and a tireless dedication to preserving our ethnic musical heritage. While known for their polka music, they will present music from a variety of Slavic traditions at the 2016 Slavic Festival. Members of the group are Rosie Sida, Brian Anater, Eric Furfari, Tim Bartek and Judy Gaeta. Rosie and The Jammers have released three CDs, “At Last,” “Celebrate,” and “Rosie and The Jammers Live,” and are working on a new CD to be released by the end of the year.

8:00-10:00: West Philadelphia Orchestra. The West Philadelphia Orchestra (WPO) is a dance explosion of blasting trumpets, pulsating drums, and shouting voices. Beats and melodies are inspired by those in Serbia, Romania, and all of the Balkans. WPO began playing Romanian ballads, Macedonian folk-dance songs, Bulgarian wedding music, and Klezmer in late 2006, and have continued expanding their repertoire of Eastern European music. WPO consistently brings a raucous party where ever they go. As much a community as a band, WPO’s performances are celebratory events.

Speaker Schedule:

12:00 noon-1:00: My Experience as a Serbian Immigrant to Johnstown, presented by Steven Purich. Germany invaded Serbia, former Yugoslavia, on April 6, 1941; Steve was born 3 days later. After the war, Serbia was taken over by the Communists. Steve’s father, a Serbian Orthodox priest, was declared an enemy of the state was arrested and scheduled to be executed. He was able to escape the night of his arrest and fled on foot dodging enemy forces, finally ending up in Austria and was able to get in touch with his family to tell them he was still alive some four years later. He was separated from his family for twelve years. The family eventually managed to emigrate to the United States, settling in Johnstown when Steve was 15. Steve will tell his family’s dramatic story.

1:00-2:00: Croatian Travel & Genealogy, presented by Robert Jerin.
Noted Croatian genealogy expert Robert Jerin also hosts guided heritage tours of Croatia. He will discuss touring the country.

2:00-3:00: The Steeples Project and Immigrant Pageant, presented by David Hurst, Sr.

In July, 2009, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown consolidated the five parishes into a new Resurrection Parish and closed three church buildings – St. Casimir, St. Columba and Immaculate Conception. The Steeples Project succeeded in saving these landmarks. Mr. Hurst will discuss plans to develop a theater in the former St. Columba Church, and a current project that will establish an ongoing “Immigrant Pageant.”

3:00-4:00: Slovak Kroj (Folk Costumes), presented by Helene Cincebeaux.
This presentation discusses the origin and appearance of traditional Slovak dress and its role in ceremonial life, and symbolism in its wearing and decoration. Helene Cincebeaux, of Rochester, NY, hosts tours of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Movavia, and is a board member of the Slovak Heritage and Folklore Society. She is also editor of “Slovakia: A Slovak Heritage Magazine.

She will display a folk dress exhibit titled “Kroje for the Dance of Life” at the Johnstown Slavic Festival.

4:00-5:00: Famous Slovaks from Johnstown, presented by Dr. Peter Baran.
Dr. Peter Baran, who was born in Slovakia, is a professor of chemistry at Juniata University.

5:00-6:00: The Slovak Family in Slovakia and America, presented by Susan Kalcik.

6:00-7:00 – Genealogical Research in Slavic Countries, presented by Connie Martin. Connie Martin is President of the Johnstown Area Genealogical & Historical Society, Inc.

7:00-8:00: The History of Slovakia, presented by Dr. Michael Kopanic. Dr. Kopanic teaches history at the University of Maryland University College. A resident of Cresson, he is a member of the board of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International.

The Johnstown Area Heritage Association is a non-profit, membership-based organization dedicated to preserving and presenting Johnstown’s unique history to the nation through high-quality educational, cultural and recreational experiences. It owns and operates several museums in the Johnstown Discovery Network, including the Johnstown Flood Museum, the Frank & Sylvia Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center, Wagner-Ritter House & Garden, and Johnstown Children’s Museum; in addition, it owns and operates Peoples Natural Gas Park. JAHA programs regular workshops and other events for children, cultural presentations for adults, and other special events, including the AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival, Summer Concert Series, and the Johnstown Film Festival. For more information on JAHA programs, facilities and events, visit