Before we begin, here's a pronunciation primer:
Say it aloud: “koo-rahn-toh-VAHN-yay.”
Go ahead; we'll wait while you say it again: “koo-rahn-toh-VAHN-yay.”
Okay, now that you can properly pronounce Kurentovanje, let’s get the party started.
Held in Slovenia each year, Kurantovanje is a colorful, ethnically rich festival that joyously bids adieu to winter while ushering in springtime. The festival and parade center around the use of traditional Slovenian masks and costumes.
But you don't have to travel overseas to experience it: just head to Cleveland Feb. 18. There will of course be plenty of food, dancing, booze, and high-quality merrymaking. Think: Mardi Gras Carnival with an Eastern European flair.
The festival is driven by the constant presence of Kurants: tall, furred and feathered “monsters” who boast long black beaks, elongated red tongues, belts with huge bells and streamers hung from their winged heads.
The primary function of these massive beasts? Scare away winter and welcome spring. For that reason alone, they’re actually quite lovable.
As bizarre as these creatures might seem upon first encounter, we here in Cleveland can’t take credit for creating them. They’re actually imported directly from Slovenia, where their presence is a pre-Lenten tradition.
In 2013, the St. Clair Superior neighborhood adopted the Slovenian celebration right here in Cleveland. If you didn’t know, Northeast Ohio is home to the largest population of Slovenians living outside of Slovenia. Cleveland even houses a Slovenian Consulate. So, the decision to host such an event was a no-brainer.
This year's Cleveland Kurentovanje happens on Feb. 18, 2023 and is headquartered as usual at the Slovenian National Home (6417 St. Clair Ave.), where you'll encounter a myriad of activities starting with its annual parade through the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood.
While the full schedule of the day's events will be announced soon, you can expect favorites like:
- The Annual Kurent Dash 5K Race starting from St. Vitus Parish Hall.
- Crafts and facepainting for kids.
- The always astounding kickoff parade departing from St. Martin DePorres High School (E.62nd and Lauche Ave) that includes the Kurenti, polka and marching bands, dance and cultural troupes, and other parading ensembles. Community organizations and groups of friends/family are encouraged to participate in the parade by signing up at www.ClevelandKurentovanje.com.
- A full program of musical acts like traditional Slovenian dancers and some wildly fun polka bands.
- TONS of amazing Slovenian food, craft beer and a full bar that includes traditional shots of Slivovitz (not for the faint of heart).
Tips for Visiting Kurentovanje
It can be a little chilly in Cleveland in February (SURPRISE!), so our first piece of advice is to dress warmly.
Second, be ready to eat! The event boasts food on every level of the Slovenian National Home, as well as a food-focused fare throughout. It's no ordinary menu, though--this is the stuff of Slovenian grandmas and recipes passed down through generations.
Third, stretch out beforehand, because you need to ready to dance, because the Polka will be fire in the main hall.
Finally, bring some cash. Many of these home cooks and artists work in good, old-fashioned cash.
For updates on bands and other information on Cleveland Kurentovanje, visit clevelandkurentovanje.com.
What are you waiting for? Start planning your Kurentovanje in Cleveland right away.