Simply Slavic Festival Returns, Expands Offerings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Simply Slavic festival will return this week with an extra helping of food specialties from the Slavic nations of eastern Europe.

The annual event in downtown Youngstown, which celebrates the area’s Slavic community, will take place from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, June 16, and noon to midnight Saturday, June 17. The festival site is along East Federal Street, which will be closed to traffic. Admission is $5 (free for children 12 and under).

For the complete schedule of entertainment, go to

Simply Slavic was launched in 2011 to educate both the region’s large number of Slavic descendants and the community at large about Slavic heritage.

This year, the festival will offer more Slavic food, according to a press release. It has added food vendors from Pittsburgh and Cleveland, duplicated the most popular menu items and brought in additional vendors.

More than 5,000 people attended last year’s festival, which followed a two-year hiatus prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival committee is expecting a similar crowd this year and is making an effort to meet the demand.

Dave Slanina, festival food vendor coordinator, said he’s excited about the variety of food that will be available this year. In addition to the Slavic staples of pierogi, halusky, stuffed cabbage and kolache, guests will also find a wide variety of new and returning items, such as potato pancakes, ćevapi (Balkan sausages), smaženzÿ sÿr (Czech fried cheese), trdelník (Slovak chimney cakes) and burek (a savory Bosnian pastry).

“While we wish everyone could travel to the Slavic nations to sample their cuisines in person, we hope to transport you there for a weekend via your taste buds while on the streets of downtown Youngstown,” Slanina said.

The festival has provided thousands of dollars in scholarships to deserving Youngstown State University students.

In 2018, a collaboration between Simply Slavic and Warren-based brewer Modern Methods Brewing Co. launched Rodina, a traditional Czech amber lager that showcases spicy Czech Saaz noble hops, lager yeast and caramel Bohemian malt. It was aptly named after the word “family” in many Slavic languages. Modern Methods brews it every year to be tapped as part of the festival’s Friday night opening ceremonies.

There are a few other new aspects to the festival this year, including:

Rev. Joseph Rudjak
  • Ecumenical Blessing of the Festival Food: Slavic tradition holds that on the Saturday before Easter and other festive occasions, the food to be consumed receives a special grace. The three-part blessing specifically will address the various items being served at the festival, with special prayers and holy water sprinkles for the meats, eggs, cakes and bread. To expand on this tradition, all of the festival’s food vendors will submit an item for blessing so that festival honorary grand marshall the Rev. Joseph Rudjak can bless it.
  • Tribute to Rev. Joseph Rudjak: A son of the former St. Casimir Church in Brier Hill, Rudjak has long been a champion of the Mahoning Valley’s ethnic parishes. Ordained a priest in 2020 after serving as a deacon since 1970, Rudjak will celebrate his retirement on Sunday, June 18, with a special 10 a.m. mass featuring the Polish Tatra Mountain Cultural Foundation Dancers of Chicago and a 2:30 p.m. mass featuring the Croatian Happy Hearts Junior Tamburitzans and Hungarian Kis Csillagok Children at Sts. Peter & Paul Church, 421 Covington St.

Other highlights of the festival will include:

  • A Slavic kitchen featuring booths of foods from area churches, local businesses and ethnic clubs;
  • A marketplace of vendors selling imported dolls, eggs, linens and apparel reflecting the varied nations of the festival;
  • An ethnic heritage tent where Slavic groups from around the region exhibit materials to educate visitors about their culture through maps, folk art, language lessons and a display of famous immigrants;
  • The national flags of the 13 Slavic countries, and one region will open the event each day and then create a colorful and educational display throughout the whole festival;
  • The entertainment stage features the region’s most colorful folk dance troupes and a variety of live bands, including the Del Sinchak Orchestra, Chardon Polka Band and the renowned Harmonia Folk Band;
  • The Vatra, a traditional Slavic bonfire, will be ceremonially lit after dark with live music playing fireside and singing and dancing until midnight.

Pictured at top: Rodina Lager will again be brewed especially for the Simply Slavic Festival.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.