It’s officially feelin’ like almost-summertime, and you know what that means– more ice cream and more murders. We trust you’re all aware that higher temps mean an uptick in lickin’ that delicious gift of mother cow teat and an increase in violent crime along with “human conflict” in general.
So if you’re feeling an incident of bad behavior coming on, it’s best to preemptively repent and do something cute, cultural, and community-oriented to quiet your demons– this weekend, get thee to the Saint George Ukrainian Festival, aka the East Village-based Slavic block party to rule them all. It helps that a century-old Ukrainian Catholic Church will be cowering over you, which– no matter what your religious (or non-religious) affiliation– is guaranteed to make you feel far too guilty to commit any dastardly deeds.
Historically, the East Village has been home to a large population of Eastern European immigrants, including Ukrainians, who are maybe the best represented group in the nabe in terms of cultural institutions. With the homeland in a state of upheaval, following the start of the Euromaidan movement and the ongoing Russian-led conflict in Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea (home to the Black Sea Fleet and the Ukrainian military dolphin program aka, the Famous Fightin’ Flippers), Ukrainians have become even more visible in their show of support for people in the homeland.
Ukrainians are certainly the East-Village community with the most longevity too– Saint George’s, for one, was established in 1911 (the building itself has been there since the 1840s and was first home to a Methodist Episcopal church), and business is booming as always at Veselka, which has been around since 1954. There’s also the Ukrainian Museum (which opened in the ’70s), and while the gritty, beloved Odessa Bar closed in 2013 (RIP), Odessa the restaurant has managed to keep its old-school diner afloat. Now in its 40th year, it’s safe to say that the Saint George Ukrainian Festival, which takes over 7th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues, is still going mad strong– I mean, just look at those smiling child dancers. They have a bright future ahead of them, and I’ll be damned if they don’t know it.
The event kicks off today, Friday May 20, at 4 pm and continues throughout the weekend until Sunday May 22 at 6 pm. And while folk dancing and traditional music performances don’t get underway until about 6 pm tonight, if you’re an eager-beaver, early-arrival type, you’ll be rewarded with your pick of the sizzling kovbasa litter. But no matter what time you get there, you’re pretty much guaranteed as many dumplings as you can fit down your gullet. Local church volunteers are to be thanked, having made “tens of thousands” of varenyky by hand in preparation for the festivities. Both Korchma Taras Bulba and Veselka will have tents on the block, offering a variety of potato-related food stuffs.
Of course, not every festival-related event has to be PG. Following the regular fest hours on Saturday night, a zabava will be held at Saint George Academy Auditorium (starts at 9 pm, reserve a table by calling 212-674-1615), which in its simplest form translates to something Andrew WK could totally get down with– party. We expect that beer and Horilka will be flowing like cray at this danglers’ dance-a-thon, so get in there and shake off all those potatoes– but only after you’ve challenged a baba to a drinking contest and declared death to Putin.
Saint George’s Ukrainian Festival will be held on 7th street between 2nd and 3rd avenues, Friday May 20 (4 pm to 9 pm), Saturday May 21 (10 am to 9 pm), and Sunday May (10 am to 6 pm). Check Facebook event page for full programming.