Lena Bennett, Slavic Festival

Lena Bennett, 6, of Johnstown, snacks on a full-sized nut roll from the Batter Bake Shop on Friday during Johnstown Slavic Festival at Heritage Discovery Center located on Broad Street in Cambria City.

Slavic food, crafts, demonstrations and entertainment were highlighted Friday evening as day one of the fifth annual Johnstown Slavic Festival got underway in Cambria City.

"We are just getting started tonight," said Shelley Johansson, Johnstown Area Heritage Association's director of marketing and communications. "This is a new thing for us – having a two day event. And so tonight is mostly about the music. It's sort of modern versions of Slavic music, and tomorrow will be more traditional in terms of the entertainment.

"Right now we have Polka Floyd playing, which is exactly what it sounds like," she said. "It's a polka band playing Pink Floyd songs and it's really fun. I couldn't be happier with the crowd and the scene so far.

"Everybody seems to be having a great time."

The annual festival was established a few years ago to educate residents on the area's Slavic heritage by featuring authentic and traditional Slavic music and dance, including Bulgarian dance, Balkan brass music, Slavic folk music, accordion players, polkas and more.

Jeffrey Masterson, of Westmont, was one of the several hundred people expected to gather at the Heritage Discovery Center during the weekend for the festival.

Masterson, who attended the event last year, said the annual festival is something the area should take pride in.

"I was here last year and had a good time then," he said. "The one thing that pulled me in was the music, that was the number one thing. Number two was definitely the food down here. You sort of have a withdrawal after you go through the (Cambria City Ethnic Festival), trying to get this kind of food, and then it reappears.

"So you have to come down and take advantage of it."

Masterson is encouraging others in the area to come down to Cambria City and partake in the festivities.

"First of all, it's free," he said. "Second of all, it's family entertainment. Bring your kids down, bring your grandparents down, bring anybody down that you want to.

"The third thing is, if you really want to enjoy yourself and get to see people you maybe haven't seen in a while, you've got to stop down here," Masterson said. "The weather is perfect and it's a really wonderful time."

Festivities will continue on Saturday with entertainment featuring accordion player Joe Malloy beginning at 12:30 p.m. Cooking demonstrations will be held during the afternoon in Galliker’s Café, and for the third year in a row, Baba's Nutroll Throwdown, a nutroll-baking competition, will be held and judged by several community leaders such as Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic and Cambria County President Commissioner Tom Chernisky.

"What makes this event different than most of the others is that I like to say "there's no rock bands, there's no pizza stands" we serve nothing but ethnic food and ethnic beer," said Brian Subich, chairman of the Johnstown Slavic Festival Committee.

"We keep it traditional and I think people love that, and as it's showing, it keeps getting bigger every year and they keep coming back for it."

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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