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Workload same for online Slavic festival

The 10th anniversary of Simply Slavic will be less than two hours online instead of two days in downtown Youngstown.

That doesn’t mean it was any easier to put together.

“We work hard to host a real event and what is the payoff? Getting to see everyone’s faces and see everyone enjoying what you put together for them,” said Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, who’s been involved with the festival since its inception.

“The idea of a seriously similar level of work — because it’s all new and you’re gathering stuff and people don’t really get what you’re trying to put together — to have all of that and no celebration at the end, that has to be the toughest thing,” she said.

While they are losing that communal element, this year’s festival has a greater international presence. The festival will run from 6 until about 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Simply Slavic Facebook page and YouTube. At 7 p.m. it will feature a toast with representatives from all 13 Slavic nations. Heschmeyer said they’ve also been getting comments from people around the world asking questions and making comments about the local festival.

“Hearing from people from the heart of the Slavic nations saying, ‘Thanks for this. Sorry you can’t get together, but thanks for spreading the culture of the Slavic nations,’ it seriously brought me to tears,” she said.

Receiving a $2,500 challenge grant from the Youngstown Foundation will enable organizers to continue its annual scholarship program.

The online program will feature performances by members of the Chardon Polka Band and Harmonia recorded especially for the virtual festival, dance performances from several folk troupes and new commentary by polka musician Del Sinchak and DJ Gary Rhamy accompanying highlights from past festivals.

Modern Methods Brewing Co. in Warren doubled production of its Rodina Czech Amber Lager, which can be purchased at the brewery starting Friday. Babcia’s Lunchbox and Krakus Polish Deli & Bakery will offer special platters and other items that can be picked up from their locations this weekend, and Youngstown’s Penguin City Brewing Co. will be delivering its beer.

The festival traditionally closed with a vatra, a bonfire and accompanying musical jam session.

“This time, it’s evolved into a vatra at home,” Heschmeyer said. “You and I will be watching online, ordering food from local vendors and drinking Rodina beer from Modern Methods, and then in our own homes with our own family and friends we can have a bonfire and enjoy the music and everything else we’re providing.”

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