The Slavic Festival honors the heritage of Sugar Creek, which was built on a wave of Slavic immigrants in the early 1900s.
The early Slavs came from Indo-European lands, spreading from various parts of Asia into Eastern Europe around 2000 BC. Under the pressure of nomadic hoards the Slavic tribes crossed the Carpathian Mountains and pushed their way down to the Balkans. Others moved westward toward the upper Danube, and still others eastward toward the River Dniper and Black Sea. This migration continued from the fourth through the eighth century, giving birth to the Slavic nations that we know today.
For many centuries the Slavic tribes used the same common language. Starting with the migration into Eastern Europe, some dialectical differences began to develop among the various tribes.
Generally, linguists divide the Slavs into three main groups - Western Slavs, Southern or Yugoslavs, and Eastern Slavs. The Western Slavs embrace modern nations of Czechs, Slovaks, Lusitian Serbs and Poles. Southern Slavs include Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Macedonians and Bulgarians. The Eastern Slavs are subdivided into three separate branches: Russians (or Muscovites), White (or Bielo-Russians) and Rusyns (or Ukrainian).
In the late 1800s and early 1900s political and economic tension triggered a wave of emigration from the Slavic nations to America. These hard working people came to form settlements in cities and neighborhoods, like Sugar Creek, where jobs and the American Dream welcomed their arrival. Today, millions of Americans trace their family heritage to the Slavic nations. Celebrations, like the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival, remind us of those roots and the sacrifices made by those who came before us seeking a better life.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants came to America to escape political, economic and religious unrest in Eastern Europe.
At that same time, a settlement was forming around a new Standard Oil refinery near Independence, Missouri. This brought the promise of the American Dream – the chance to work, provide a good education for their children and practice the religion of their choice. As word spread, Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, Croatians, Serbians, Slovenes, and Poles left their homeland to come to Sugar Creek.
The journey was not easy. Often times, men came alone to work, build homes and save enough money to send for their families. A common language and a shared longing for home brought these new residents together, forming a close-knit community. And by 1920, the City of Sugar Creek was born and families settled into their new life in America.
The new town of Sugar Creek reminded residents of home, with rolling hills, open spaces and a climate similar to their Slavic homeland. It was the perfect setting to build on the strong traditions that they shared.
Working weekends and after hours, the community built a new church, digging the foundation by hand and laying each brick. In 1926, St. Cyril’s Parish was dedicated – named after the patron saint of the Slavic people.
Slavic customs were also shared through celebration. Special meals were prepared at Christmas and Easter using traditional Slavic ingredients. Meat was saved for these occasions and served with cabbage, potatoes, dumplings and breads.
Traditions were also shared at weddings and baptisms. Wedding celebrations could last for days, with the community coming together to prepare the wedding feast, dance to traditional Slavic music and share their gifts.
Throughout the generations, the Slavic heritage in Sugar Creek was passed down through folk dance classes, Polka dances and other community events. In 1969, the Sugar Creek Tamburitzans began, introducing music and dance to a whole new generation. For nearly a decade, the group performed across the nation and continues to share its musical history with an annual performance at the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival.
In the 1970’s, St. Cyril’s Church hosted the Folk Festival. This successful event shared Slavic music, food and dance with visitors from across the metropolitan area – including the thriving Slavic communities of Kansas City, Kansas.
In 1986, the Sugar Creek Fair & Festival Board was formed to rekindle the spirit of the Folk Festival. Today, the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival brings groups together from throughout the Midwest to share their Slavic traditions. From generation-to-generation, the history and tradition of Sugar Creek’s Slavic heritage has remained strong - giving one more reason to celebrate at the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival.
We're building a resource center for people interested in learning more about their Slavic heritage. If you know of a group in Kansas City, information available on-line or through other sources, or someone who can share their knowledge of the heritage, please let us know.
Email us or call Mark O'Renick at 816.809.4533