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Picnic’s goal is to keep Slovenian heritage alive


Joanne Lessar bakes pizzelles for the Slovenian picnic this Sunday

Contributing Writer

Accordion music will rise through the trees in Washington Park this Sunday. The Slovenian Day Picnic celebrates the area’s Eastern European heritage with food, live music and dancing from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 13 in the pavilion. Organizers of the event, which is open to the public, have been working hard all summer to prepare a variety of savory foods and desserts.
Each year, Tony Lessar makes hundreds of kielbasa, the famous smoked sausages to top with sauerkraut and serve at the picnic. Along with kielbasa, attendees can heap cabbage rolls, polenta, slovenian potato salad and pickled eggs on their plates. Joanne Lessar and many of her friends bake hungarian cookies, apple strudel, potica and pizzelles for desert.
All of the proceeds from the food sales are divided between the Slovenian lodges in the area. The three lodges in turn distribute the money to local charities and the Slovenian scholarship fund.
Even though the fundraiser benefits the community, the main goal of the picnic is to keep Slovenian heritage alive. Eastern Europeans immigrated to Carbon and Emery counties to work in the coal mines. “Eighty years ago, in the coal camps, many Slovenians perished from the hard labor. The Slovenian lodges were established to care for the miners’ widows and children,” explained Joanne Lessar.
Aside from the food, Slovenians like to have a good time. “Polka music is happy music and the Slovenians are always dancing,” added Joanne Lessar.
Businesses and individuals have given to make the picnic happen. There will be a raffle with prizes including tools, a gun and generator. “Everyone donates their time and many ingredients. Fresh Market lets us bake the strudel in their bakery each year. We live in a great community,” she said.
The event draws about 200 people each year. Organizers bake more than 1,000 Hungarian cookies (a rolled cookie filled with sugar, cream and nuts) and 100 potica loaves (a bread with a swirl of cinnamon sugar and nuts on the inside) for guests. “After the picnic, I’m always exhausted, but then I see how much fun everyone has. That makes it all worth it,” added Joanne Lessar.
Local Slovenian lodges are a branch of the S.N.P.J. (Slovenska Norodna Podporna Jednota, or Slovene National Benefit Society” based in Lawrence County, Penn.

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