On Saturday, May 31 it was the turn of the Slovak community to host an open house as part of the annual Niagara Folk Arts Festival.
The St. Catharines Branch 31 of the Canadian Slovak League opened its hearts and its doors to the community at large at Holy Rosary Hall, inviting visitors to sample Slovak food, to listen to Slovak music, to watch the ever-exciting Vychodna Dancers from Toronto, and to learn about the history and culture of Slovakia.
The band Soundscape from Welland, led by Julian Hlywka made its third appearance in a row at the annual event, performing a variety of delightful numbers, including traditional Slovak numbers. The last act of the evening was by the Button Boxers of Lipa Park, a Slovenian ensemble of diatonic accordions, playing polkas and waltzes. Both bands, though not of Slovak origin, have developed close relations with the Slovak community of the Niagara Area over the many years.
Between the two musical ensembles, the crowd was treated to the amazing Vychodna Dancers, who have become very well known in this area and have won fans among Slovaks and non-Slovaks alike. Their terpsichorean skills and choreography can be appreciated by all, Slovak and non-Slovak alike; they are wonderful ambassadors of Slovak culture and make us Canadian Slovaks proud.
Alena Melas and the Slovak Canadian Heritage Museum mounted a rich display, focussing on Kosice, the main city of Eastern Slovakia and second largest after Bratislava. Included in the exhibit were costumes, and numerous pictures of the "Vychod". The Niagara Slovak Historical Society exhibited pictures of some of the families that settled the Niagara Area; the aim of the Society is to document the stories of families and enter them into the annals of Niagara Region history at the St. Catharines Museum at Lock Three of the Welland canal.
The food was up to its high standard of "deliciousness" and the demand for it continued throughout the afternoon; the cashiers and kitchen volunteers had no time to take breaks. The Slovak Open House earned its reputation for great food years ago and over the years the fame has only increased.
One can deduce from the above that the 2014 Slovak Open House was a success and indeed it was. But it could not have taken place without the hard work of the volunteers. The overall co-ordinator was Rebecca Alfieri, who has done this job tirelessly over the many years. As well as planning and co-ordinating, she rolls up her sleeves and performs hands-on work, leading by example.
Volunteerism runs in the family; Rebecca's mom, Eleanor Keltos, supervised the preparation of the food. Branch 31 president David Woodhouse had three generations of his family working for the event – his wife Alex, mother-in-law Vlasta Matyas, daughter Alicia, and son Christian. Alicia was also the Slovak ambassador to the Folk Arts and gracious host to the visiting ambassadors for the other ethnic clubs. Thanks also to Sandra Palencar and Peter Walker for running the kitchen on the day of the open house. Also thanks to Hana Vargovic for the use of her restaurant where much of the preparation took place and the chicken, cabbage rolls, and meat-on–a-stick were cooked.
Thank you to all the volunteers, too many to mention here, who gave up their time and energy to make this all happen. This was one of the smoothest running Open Houses ever thanks to your hard selfless work.