Slavic Fest, this time in Ventura Park, again draws a big crowd

See why the two-day outer East Portland festival attracted folks from all over the Pacific Northwest to this Hazelwood park …

The annual Slavic Festival is the late July destination for Russian speakers, as well as for those who enjoy a wholesome family event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

With canopies, displays, and a large stage, Ventura City Park was turned into festival village on July 30 and 31 for the 8th Annual Slavic Festival.

Speaking Russian wasn’t required at the free event, which attracted people of many backgrounds to the music, sports, and food.

Slavic Festival Organizer Galina Nekrasova (far left) spends a moment with volunteers and performers.

Festival Director Galina Viktorovna Nekrasova, once a resident of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow – who moved to the United States in 2001 – said organizing events comes naturally to her.

“It’s a lot of work, but I am a professional; I am a teacher, Nekrasova told East Portland News.

“Everyone knows that for 20 years I worked as principal in a high school, organizing education and events with children and parents,” Nekrasova explained. “Working with volunteers to make this festival is absolutely the same.”

Hungry people line up for traditional Slavic foods, at the carts and kiosks of the festival.

Here cooking Chebureki (or Chiburekki) – a deep-fried turnover with a filling of ground meat and onions – is Violetta Tkach.

Using a giant industrial-size wok, Pavel Asbidov cooks up “Palov” – a popular Uzbekistan dish enjoyed across the former USSR.

She and her group of volunteers have labored to produce the event, year after year, because it’s important to bring people together, Nekrasova said.

“Here we have people from many places in the former USSR, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova,” Nekrasova added.

These carrier pigeons will be released, taking messages back to their owners’ roosts.

Former Belarus resident Oleg Umimsky proudly displays his 1973 Lada Model 1500, manufactured by AvtoVAZ, that he’s just restored. “This is the same model I drove in Russia in the late 1980s, when I was a teenager,” he says.

World-famous guitarist Serge Khrichenko – called “one of the most accomplished and innovative guitarists performing today” – is ready to go on stage to perform some classical, jazz, and what he says is his new favorite genre, Bluegrass music.

It’s natural for Slavic people, to come together, she said. “And, in our culture, everyone is together; young people, mamas and poppas, grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts – it’s like all in one house, all together.”

Seeing the festival unfold, Nekrasova said, “Yes, it makes me feel very good. It is my life!”

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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