The public is invited to attend the 21st annual festival, which runs 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 to Saturday, Aug. 9 on Fifth Street between Duss Avenue and Elm Road.
The free event is sponsored by St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church and features homemade Slavic food, dance, music, costumes, artisans and their crafts.
John Righetti, festival general chairman, said the food festival has become a tradition here, attracting visitors from several states and even from Europe.
“It’s the only authentic Rusyn summer festival in western Pennsylvania,” Righetti said.
The Rev. Robert Prepelka, pastor of the church, said some people have never been exposed to the faith or heritage.
“A lot of people don’t know what Rusyns are,” Prepelka said.
The Carpatho-Rusyns are an East Slavic group that immigrated to the United States from the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe. There are about 60,000 people of Rusyn background in western Pennsylvania with another 40,000 in eastern Ohio.
St. John's is a small congregation with fewer than 120 parishioners.
Righetti said the event is not only a fundraiser for the church, but also a chance to educate people about Rusyn culture and values.
“When you’re a stateless people like Rusyns and you don’t have a country of your own, good luck in hoping that any educational system teaches about you," he said. "...We view this as our opportunity to clearly support our church, but also to share who we are with the community,” he said.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Throughout the three days, the festival will feature demonstrations of traditional Carpatho-Rusyn arts. Artisans will demonstrate pysanky (Easter egg decorating) and lacemaking. All artisans are members of St. John’s parish.
At 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9, the Slavjane Rusyn Folk Ensemble of McKees rocks, PA, comprised of young people, will perform Carpatho-Rusyn songs and dances at 3 p.m.
The festival will have a booth selling Rusyn ethnic items including CDs, wooden items, distinctive Rusyn shirts and sweatshirts, books and embroideries, as well as eastern Christian religious items such as books and icons.
The Carpatho-Rusyn Society, a national Rusyn cultural organization based in Pittsburgh, will host a display of Rusyn folk items.
And, of course, there will be Rusyn food.
Righetti said about 150,000 pirohi were individually pinched by hand. Most of the recipes used have been developed by the church over time and some, such as the soups and baked goods, are individual recipes that parishioners make.
In addition to pirohy stuffed with potato and cheese or sauerkraut, other popular Carpatho-Rusyn foods to be served include dumpling or noodle halushky, breaded chicken, kulbassi and kraut, holubky (stuffed cabbage), pagach (“Rusyn pizza”) borscht (beet soup), mushroom/bean soup, chicken soup, Rusyn summer salads and others.
Baked goods will include traditional Rusyn favorites like nut, apricot and poppyseed rolls, the church’s famous palachinky (fruit and cheese-filled crepes), cheregi (Rusyn donuts), paska breads, Rusyn torte and other specialties.
The food will be served cafeteria style in the church’s air-conditioned parish center on Fifth St in Ambridge. Two groups are scheduled for tours of the church, which are also available.
For more information, call 724-266-2879 or 412-749-0675.
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