Michael Bushnell

Cue the accordion band, get that kielbasa cookin’ and put on your polka shoes because the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival is back for its 38th year. June 7 and 8, experience fun entertainment, delicious food and eastern European arts and crafts. This event will begin at 5 p.m., Friday and at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, with final acts taking the stage at 11 p.m. both nights.

This year’s festival celebrates women in the Slavic Arts, with special musical guest and five-time Grammy award nominated artist LynnMarie and the Nashville Polka Guys — headlining Friday and Saturday night’s main stage. Billed as the “Dixie Chick of the Accordion” by Tonight Show host Jay Leno, she was the first “squeeze box” musician to earn a Grammy nomination for Best Polka Album.Also on  the entertainment bill for Saturday, includes musicians Irina Moma, Megan Luttrel and Promo Ukraine. Storyteller Joyce Slater will also lead a story time session — sharing tales of Slavic folklore with all the youngsters.

Miss Czech Slovac Queen candidates lead the flag parade at last year’s Slavic Festival
| Photo credit: photorainey.com

“Most of what we have at the festival is inspired and made possible by women artists,” said festival organizer Mark O’Renick. “We have Elaine Griznik, a folk artist from Strawberry Hill, Irene Thompson does all the Ukranian eggs, Promo Ukraine will be presenting new fashion designs and all the bakeries we have are women-owned business enterprises. So this will be an expanded festival when it comes to women-run business vendors,” O’Renick added.

Additionally on tap — perennial favorites the Kolo kids, along with the Sugar Creek Ethnic Dance Troupe, and of course, the sausage-eating contest, featuring none other than sausages from Peter May’s House of Kielbasa.

Dancers with the Sugar Creek Ethnic Dance Troupe entertain at last year’s festival
| Photo credit: photorainey.com

This festival, filled with entertainment and activities, focuses on  rich, Eastern European heritage immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s — settling in communities such as Kansas City Kansas’ Strawberry Hill neighborhood.

In 1904, when Standard Oil began its refining operation in the rich valley between Kansas City and Independence, it was originally staffed by employees from its Whiting Indiana operation. As the refinery grew, so did the population around it.  In 1920, the city of Sugar Creek was chartered — populated largely by men from Hungary, formerly Czechoslovakia, Croatia and Serbia.  

The Kolo Kids perform on Friday and Saturday’s  Sugar Creek Slavic Festival | Photo credit: photorainey.com

The birth of the festival came in the early 1970’s when St. Cyril’s Parish hosted an annual Folk Festival, which showcased Slavic music, food and dance. The folk festival was popular with guests from around the metro area, including  Polish communities from Kansas City’s East Side and Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kansas. The Festival was so popular that it soon outgrew St. Cyril’s ability to effectively and safely host, so it was disbanded in the mid to late ‘70s.

After a few years off, the Festival was officially re-launched in 1986, when a number of local civic organizations banded together to organize the annual Sugar Creek Slavic Festival. 38 years later, Slavic Fest continues to grow — this year featuring even more food, craft and art vendors  on hand showcasing their products.

 For tickets to this year’s festival, or more information, visit its website at https://www.slavicfest.com/.