Monday, July 24, 2006

Macedonia celebrated

Macedonia celebrated

Cultural festival highlights history, ethnic fare

(July 24, 2006) — HENRIETTA — Despite picture-perfect weather and the groovy sounds of Eastern European folk music, it was not difficult to find a parking spot on the third and final day of the ninth annual Macedonian Festival. About two dozen people had gathered under the food tent Sunday, while the tables and chairs set up on the grounds of St. Dimitria Macedonian Orthodox Church were mostly empty.

But organizers weren't worried. The event typically draws several thousand people — many of them Macedonians from as far away as Toronto, as well as other Eastern Europeans — and even with steady rains, as many as 600 came on Saturday. Another 500 were expected Sunday.

Besides, said festival chairman Paul Pando Kordovski, "this is low-key." There were no carnival rides, he pointed out, and no fried dough — at least, not of the American variety. There was plenty to be had in the way of honey-soaked Macedonian fried dough, otherwise known as tulumbi.

The festival featured all kinds of Macedonian fare, from shish kebabs to kebabs. Yes, there is a difference: The shish kebabs are all pork, while the kebabs are mostly beef.

Most impressive were the pastries — baklava, it turns out, can come in many different forms — that filled a glass case and lined table after table inside the church at 234 Telephone Road in West Henrietta. Opposite the pastries was an exhibit on Macedonian history that included old-fashioned clothing and everyday cookware. The church's Sunday school teacher and resident historian stood at the ready, eager to show a 15-minute videotape of his homeland.

Still to come was live Macedonian folk music and dancing. That's what Ruska Bosnakovski of Gates and her family were looking forward to. Her daughter, Julie Ritchie of Webster, said she especially enjoys hearing the Macedonian language spoken at the festival.

She brought her daughter, 3-month-old Olivia, and said she and her husband, who is of German descent, "want both of our ethnic backgrounds to be introduced to her."

And that's the purpose behind the Macedonian festival, which also helps to raise money for the church.

"We want people to come and see who we are," said Kordovski said. "We are a very fun-loving people."

It's also a welcome mingling opportunity for Rochester's close-knit Macedonian community of about 1,000 — the vast majority of whom come from the same village, about two miles outside Bitola in southern Macedonia.

"We got the second Bukovo here, right here in Rochester," Kordovski said. "I don't think there's a better place on earth."

"This is our country," added church president Risto Sifkarovski, "but at the same time, we don't want to forget our roots."

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