Monday, September 10, 2007

Ukrainian Festival 2007: Best of Stamford

SCOOP: I went to the 40th annual Ukrainian Festival on Sept. 9, 2007. It’s good for families, singles, and music-lovers, and it’s certainly worth ten bucks (five in advance).
MY TAKE: Ukraine Fest is a must. For families, lively traditional dancing and music. For singles, beer and attractive, sharp-featured men and women. For everyone, it’s a great day to sit outdoors, eat, drink, and relax on the beautiful grounds of St. Basil’s College in Glenbrook.
I got there as a few hundred people were gathering in front of the outdoor amphitheatre. I have no idea where they got their folding chairs, but I sat on my
blanket waiting for the traditional dancers. First, a man led us in “God Bless America.” I wasn’t surprised many people were unsure of the words, but I was surprised that I was the most clueless. I sang, “to the ocean- white with snoooooooow.” ??? Foam, dum-dum!
But once he started us on the Ukrainian national anthem, the crowd’s voices grew surer. I stood and listened. It took a while and no one seemed in a hurry. It was a bit eerie sounding, maybe because it was slow and a cappella, or maybe because the strongest voices were older. The younger voices didn’t know all the words, just like I didn’t know "God Bless America," but the older folk followed through to the end. It was impressive to see people singing a song that clearly says, I grew up somewhere else. I hope they like Stamford.

The dancers were awesome. Groups from different towns performed, ages 6 to 13-ish. They leapt and twirled, and the boys did Russian-style crouch and kick moves. It wasn’t a “they’re bad but cute” dance recital. Those kids were little but they kicked ass. They did a complicated circle-up-and-link-arms-to-lift-up-the-girls move, and some up-and-back, in-a-line moves. One boy did one-handed cartwheels in a circle.
Next, a band of four adults played music with traditional instruments: violin, insane wooden flute, bass, and accordion. The speakers and sound production were clear, so the music sounded great. I got a funny photo of a little dog standing by the switchboard.
The entire program was in Ukrainian. That might scare some people, but I love it. Not understanding the language around you frees you of all responsibility. I meandered around looking at the craft tables- the painted eggs would make good gifts- and Ukraine-language books and CDs. I wasn’t crazy about the food.
VERDICT: I hope this event is better-publicized next year. The local papers helpfully mentioned it THE DAY BEFORE. Does anyone a) read the paper b) spur-of-the-moment decide to hit the local fair? Just remember: next year, early September, St. Basil’s College on Glenbrook Road. I’ll be there, and I’ll bring my folding chair.

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