Russian Festival Returning to Howell This Weekend
Annual event features art, music and food
For eight years now people from around the area have come to St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Cathedral and Our Lady of Tikhvin Church on Alexander Avenue for a taste of Russia in the neighboring town of Howell.
The annual Russian and Slavic Cultural Festival has grown over the years and Bill Mackanic, one of the coordinators, said it is a special time for the people involved. "We really wanted to open up to expose the Russian and Slavic community to the greater community," he said.
Sunday afternoon the church will once again open its doors to the community at learge for the annual tradition.
The church had held events like dances and other shows just for the smaller community, but Mackanic said they wanted to open their doors to show people what make their culture so unique. "Everybody's welcome in a Russian home," he said. "When you're brought in, it doesn't matter where you're from."
It is that sense of home that he said has brought people back year after year. "When you bring somebody in it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from. You're made to feel like a part of that family for life."
The day features a variety of forms of entertainment for the people who come out to the event. The air is filled with the smells from the traditional food which visitors can enjoy while listening to the music and watching the dance performers.
Everything from shish-ke-bobs to stuffed cabbage and meet cutlets are available to enjoy as well as other traditional dishes like borsh and pirozhki. A wide variety of beverages are also available for guests of all ages.
Mackanic said the environment is made to feel so much like home that even people who are new to the culture feel welcomed in very little time. The music performed by the famous music group Barynya has also impressed the people that come to the event. "I've had the fortune over the years to meet people and new immigrants that come here. They see these guys perform and they're blown away."
The church has been around for 75 years and Mackanic he always loves seeing people come to the annual event every year to see what they have built. "It's a beautiful little place," he said of the original chapel. The newer building was put up in the 1990's thanks to the fundraising work and help from volunteers he said.
Growing up in the age of the Cold War Mackanic said it is important to him that people see the good sides of his culture. "It's a really nice way to say what you might have heard about Russia isn't really what Russia's about," he said. "Especially nowadays there has been a real resurgence in the culture and heritage and traditions."
Part of that resurgence has happened right here in Howell with the reopening of the Russian House Rodina which Mackanic said is another point of pride for the church and people who grew up with the building as a hub for their daily lives.