Each year about this time, the western flanks of the Shawangunk Ridge become the Carpathians of the New World, as Americans of Ukrainian descent – not to mention other folks who appreciate traditional Eastern European music, cuisine and culture – gather in Kerhonkson for a three-day weekend of fun. The seventh annual Ukrainian Cultural Festival returns to the Soyuzivka Heritage Center beginning at 2 p.m. this Friday, July 12 and runs through 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 14.
The event has become the largest Ukrainian festival in the US and is expected to draw 5,000 visitors to the site. Soyuzivka is run by the Ukrainian National Foundation and usually serves as a summer camp and resort for families who wish to immerse themselves in their ancestral language and folkways. But this weekend, it will be jam-packed with partiers.
This year’s Festival headliner is Vika (Vasilevich), a singer/songwriter from Ukraine who is making her mark on the American music scene, accompanied by her six-piece band of phenomenal musicians. In April 2013 Vika became the first Ukrainian artist to have a song played full-length in a major Hollywood film, as her “Want You” was featured in Arthur Newman, starring Colin Firth, Emily Blunt and Anne Heche.
Many other performers will grace the Ukrainian Cultural Festival stages throughout the weekend, foremost among them Vasyl Popadiuk, known as the “Duke of the Gypsy Violin.” Accompanied by the band Papa Duke, Popadiuk will provide a Carpathian hoedown with a unique and energizing world-fusion blend of Ukrainian, Latin, classical, rock and jazz. The upbeat atmosphere will be sustained by the expert kicks, leaps, swirls, twirls and assorted fancy footwork supplied by several troupes of Ukrainian folk dancers. Stirring choral music and bandura virtuosi will also be featured, and a traditional late-night zabava or dance party will follow the evening performances on Friday and Saturday.
Part of the attraction of this event, of course, is the excuse to visit the Beer Garden and the Food Court to pig out on savory treats like kovbasa (kielbasa), holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) and varenyky, a/k/a pyrohy (pierogies), made in the authentic Old Country style. There will even be a varenyky-eating contest on Saturday afternoon – not for the faint of heart!
Vendors will peddle traditional Ukrainian crafts like elaborately embroidered clothing and linens and the gorgeous painted Easter eggs known as pysanky. Continual screenings of Ukrainian films and a historical photography exhibit round out the artistic offerings. To see the full weekend program, visit www.soyuzivka.com/pdfs/2013/festival_program13.pdf.
A full three-day pass to the Ukrainian Cultural Festival costs $30. Admission for Friday only costs $10 for adults, $5 for children under age 10; Saturday only, $25 for adults and $10 for kids; and Sunday only, $5 for all. Limited parking is available on the Soyuzivka property for $20 per vehicle, first-come, first-served; there is also free offsite parking with a shuttle provided. For additional information, call (845) 626-5642 or visit www.soyuzivka.com.
Ukrainian Cultural Festival, Friday-Sunday, July 12-14, $30/$25/$10/$5, Soyuzivka Heritage Center, 216 Foordmore Road (off Route 44/55), Kerhonkson; (845) 626-5642, www.soyuzivka.com.