One festival down, a thousand to go. And then comes November.
There probably are not a thousand Czech or Slovak festivals around the country in October, but there might be! I attended a Slavic Heritage festival in Houston, and have a Czech festival coming later in October. There are already dozens, if not scores, that I have missed in cities and towns, large and small. Attending has provided me with insight.
As I staffed the NCSML booth, talked to visitors, watched entertainment and smelled the wonderful food aromas that filled the Knights of Columbus hall, I wondered about my ancestors. I know there was Polish dance and music in some relatives’ homes, though nothing I experienced. I imagine there were Scot songs and dance on the other side of my family, too, on Mississippi farmlands where they settled. Cultures gather and celebrate with food, music, and dance. I have scans of old photographs of relatives on both sides of my family. Trying to envision them in colorful garb, laughing and singing, dancing and laughing more, was challenging and rewarding. The reward was having a better-rounded view of who they were and from whence they came. Maybe that is the real gift of festivals.
Festivals provide experiences, and experiences teach more thoroughly and entertainingly than books and lectures. People of all ages continue to learn when they mix and mingle at festivals, comparing stories with others and brushing up on the languages of their ancestors.
If you haven’t been to a festival, plan on going this year. If you have before, go with new eyes and ears (and taste buds!) to experience anew. If you go often, next time bring some old photos of your relatives. Look at their photos while enjoying the event, and experience time travel. You’ll certainly gain context, perspective, and understanding, too.
Share your festival stories with me! Tell me about your festival experiences. I would love to hear them. Contact me at DMcInnis@NCSML.org.