Slovenian Mardi Gras offers week of food, fun and scary monsters
Clevelanders love a party. Even an outside one, in winter.
In just six years, the Kurentovanje winter Slovenian festival has gone from a one-day grass-roots parade that attracted about 2,000 people to a week of activities that will culminate in a parade in the St. Clair Superior area that is expected to attract more than 8, 000 revelers. (Last year it did.)
Cleveland Kurentovanje in 2015. (Andy Wrobel)
Kurentovanje, a Slovenian Mardi Gras held in the time leading up to Lent, has long roots in the Old World, with many villages celebrating the several weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. The Cleveland festival will feature a winter's end parade, Slovenian food and drink, cultural performances, and a dozen Kurents. These enormous mythical Slovenian monsters are meant to scare winter away and welcome spring.
Kurentovanje, a centuries old tradition in Slovenia, made its way to Cleveland in 2013, with those scary monsters bringing new attention an old custom -- and a historic, overlooked area of town.
"We had no idea what to expect the first year," says organizer Nicole Kusold-Matheou, a Slovenian-America who has actually traveled to ground zero for Kurentovanje, the city of Ptuj. "But nearly 2,000 people showed up and were so excited for that. And it just keeps growing, Kurentovanje is catching on. The thing to me that is so exciting is that it's not just for Slovenians, but for anyone who wants to celebrate Mardi Grad and chase away winter."
From the beginning, the aim of Kurentovanje was always bigger than celebrating one Slovenian holiday.
"Our driving mission has three key parts," says Kusold-Matheou. "One - to promote Slovenian culture. Two - to introduce people and see some movement in the historic St. Clair Superior neighborhood, where so many Slovenians and Eastern Europeans have lived. And three - to have fun."
Mission accomplished. And this year, with the extension of Kurentovanje to a week of activities, even more fun should be had.
"Just as Mardi Gras in New Orleans extends over several weeks, in Slovenia, Kurentovanje extends several weeks. We wanted to really try to blow it out this year in Cleveland. The idea is for people to have plenty of ways to celebrate and really get out and explore the area, get back in touch with their roots and have a good time."
Find out more (schedule, photos): http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/01/cleveland_kurentovanje_sloveni_3.html