Since I have been sorely slacking on getting a lot of my History Tour stuff on here, I figured that I better get cracking on sharing some of the cool day trips I went on this past year before I completely forget any of the details on a lot of them. Today I will be looking at an event that I had never attended in the past, The Sugar Creek Slavic Festival held in a park during the early summer on a yearly basis. While I am not Slavic by blood, my stepfather was raised by his Croatian grandparents, and as a result a lot of that culture crept it’s way into things like family gatherings. Being able to walk around and experience different cultures is one of the cooler things about living near a big city, and while Missouri is known for its Irish and German heritage, one might be surprised how many people of Slavic descent live around here. In fact, a town that I used to live somewhat near, Sedalia, Missouri, was once noted as “The Most Russian City in America” at one point. I was actually surprised at how vibrant and packed this festival was, and I will definitely make plans to attend next year.
Sugar Creek Slavic Festival; Sugar Creek, Missouri
Due to the situation in Ukraine, a lot of the proceeds from the festival itself and a percentage of earnings from the participating shop-owners and vendors went to a Ukrainian relief charity. It was cool to see everyone come together for this, and avoid bickering based on heritage. If any of that did happen behind the scenes, festival goers were not privy to it. If anything, the message of the festival was peace, love, and togetherness, something I hope Europe can experience again very soon. The whole festival focused on traditional dress, food, music, and all the staples of one’s cultural heritage that one takes for granted. While it was easy to feel a tad like an outsider, everyone was very welcoming and you can tell care was taken to make the event inclusive. I particularly enjoyed a couple of people that used the festival to teach history, which is the main focus of these articles and why I am including this here. If anything the whole thing is a great jumping on point for numerous topics, many of which only really come up once you are walking around.
Some topics for further research would be:
- Slavic Cooking
- Slavic Immigration to the US
- Slavic Music
- Slavic cultural identity
This festival surprisingly has its own Wikipedia page, and is apparently a pretty big deal for this community. That page lays out some history of the event:
” The Sugar Creek Slavic Festival is an annual two-day event held in Sugar Creek, Missouri. The Sugar Creek Fair and Festival Board sponsors the Slavic Festival. The board consists of area civic and service organization members. In 2005, the Ambassador to the United States of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Ratislav Kačer, made an appearance at the festival to celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. Through their cooperative efforts, the Slavic Festival has continued to grow and help maintain the ethnic traditions of the people of Sugar Creek. Ancient traditions of Slavic culture brought by immigrants from Czechoslovakia, Croatia, and Poland had been present even in Sugar Creek’s earliest days. Celebrations were carried out in a customary manner between the residents of the town throughout the late 19th and most of the 20th century. However, it was not until July 4, 1986, that the celebrations became a formal event. The Fair and Festival Board patterned the festival after the very successful Folk Festivals sponsored by St. Cyril’s Catholic Church and its Altar and Rosary Society in the late 1970s.”
One of the cooler things I saw at the festival was a man and his son/grandson that were dressed in the garb of Polish warriors of the sixteenth century. The man had a full set of Winged Hussar armor, and was walking around and talking about it and doing photo ops (pictures below). For my reading for this, I chose the book that was on Display at the man’s booth, Polish Winged Hussar 1576–1775 (Warrior) by Richard Brzezinski (Author), and Velimir Vuksic (Illustrator).
“This book examines the origins and development of the Polish ‘Winged’ Hussars. Using many years’ painstaking research drawn from unpublished Polish sources, the author provides a rounded view of the training, tactics, appearance and experiences of these legendary and fascinating warriors. Most dramatic of all Hussar characteristics were the ‘wings’ worn on the back or on the saddle, although not all Hussars wore them, and their purpose has been fiercely debated. The Hussars terrified the Turks, Tatars, Muscovite boyars, Ukrainian Cossacks and Swedes, who did everything to avoid facing them directly in battle.”
Osprey Books are very cool small monographs based on whatever narrow top they happen to cover. While they usually don’t have a huge pagecount, the amount of information is always far better than simply reading an online encyclopedia article, and are generally filled with gorgeous hand-drawn artwork that are well worth the price. I was both happy to talk to this historical re-enactor and learn about the thing he is so passionate about.
The park that always seems to hold this festival is located at Onka Memorial Building grounds, 11520 E. Putnam in Sugar Creek, MO.
I honestly got there far too early, as we were there right as vendors were setting up and a lot of the attractions were not going on. The flipside was that I had an awesome parking spot and did not have to deal with any of the craziness of taking a shuttle bus or using an overflow lot like many did. If one gets there within about an hour of opening, there is already plenty going on such as a live band, numerous food choices, and much more. There is even a children’s area with inflatable bouncing castles and games.
While Kansas City definitely champions it’s Irish Festival and Ethnic Festival, and for good reason, The Sugar Creek Slavic Festival is a very underrated event that I wish more knew about. From a cultural and historical standpoint, there is a lot to see and experience, and tons to learn if you take the time to enjoy everything the festival offers. Just make sure to dress for the heat, as early June has a tendency to be the beginning of the type of summer weather that makes being outside for long periods of time somewhat rough. Learning about Winged Hussars was awesome, and I hope that guy is back next year with more cool stuff.
Official website HERE
For more Kansas City area history content, click HERE