Say ‘Felicitari!’ to annual Romanian Festival

See why many were giving congratulations (felicitari) to organizers of this outer East Portland cultural festival, held in the Hazelwood neighborhood …

Going on stage to perform a traditional dance is a group from Seattle called “Tatina” at this year’s Romanian Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The hot summer weather didn’t keep people from visiting the 14th edition of the Romanian Festival held at Saint Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church on September 2 and 3.

Most of the celebrants ducked under the shade of a large tent, cooled by fans blowing a mist spray, to watch the singers, dancers, and storytellers on the main stage set up in the church’s back parking lot.

The scent of savory food wafted from the large food pavilion, while arts and crafts vendors chatted with the guests in their booths.

Father Paul and Father Gabriel from Saint Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church pause for a photo the Romanian dance group Ciresarii.

“It’s an important day, because it helps keep our Romanian traditions alive; many persons from here really enjoy remembering how they spent fun times in our native country,” remarked the church’s Father Gabriel.

“This festival also helps our children learn about their culture,” Father Gabriel told East Portland News.

In the shade of a large free-span tent, people enjoy this year’s Romanian Festival.

“In America we have everybody’s culture; so, with this festival, we’re trying to help our children know how the ancients were,” he expanded. “We do this through our songs and dances from Romania, some of them from 100 years ago.”

The Muntence and Ploiesteni groups fill the stage with this cultural dance presentation.

The dances, he further made clear, are very old cultural and traditional dances.

“Native Americans, Russians, Greeks, Serbians, Ukrainians are all trying to teach and keep their culture alive through their music and dancing, and we’re trying to do the same,” Father Gabriel smiled.

Christina Varvaroi serves a traditional meal: Polenta with cabbage rolls and skinless sausage. “Pofta buna! [Enjoy!]” she says.

He enjoys watching the dances, especially as performed by youth groups, Father Gabriel shared. “And my favorite part of this festival is the food; here we have our special Romanian food!”

And so the day went on, with music, dancing, conversation, and food – the elements that make up this annual outer East Portland cultural celebration.

Christina Bertea shows traditional Romanian folkloric costumes with her friend, Sylvia Arcas.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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