Annual Lithuanian Days set for this weekend
One hundred years of independence, 25 years of partnership, the modernity and past of a Baltic country from which many emigrated to Schuylkill County will be celebrated this weekend in a northern county community.
The 104th Lithuanian Days, sponsored by the Knights of Lithuania Anthracite Council 144, will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Annunciation Hall at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, 9 S. Broad Mountain Ave., Frackville. A $5 admission charge covers the entire weekend, whether the ticket is bought Saturday or Sunday. However, that $5 also gets the buyer five raffle tickets, with a chance to win a grand prize of $250, said Larry Domalakes, co-chairman of the Lithuanian Days committee. Parking is available on Line Street, Broad Mountain Avenue and at the Senior Citizens building at Frack Street and Broad Mountain Avenue.
“It is a celebration of Lithuanian culture, heritage, food, folk dancing and just being Lithuanian,” Domalakes said, adding “it’s the oldest consecutive running heritage day type of event in the U.S. for Lithuanians, having started in 1913. People from Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago come. We reach the Eastern United States with this thing.”
It was five years after Lithuanian Days began that the country as we know it gained its independence after World War I, and on that topic Maj. Alex Radzius, a Lithuanian Partisan reenactor, will be speaking, as well as on life in Lithuania under USSR rule.
As time passes, Domalakes said, many people forget, but “during the Soviet occupation, there was obviously an underground, a group of Lithuanian Partisans, and they were basically the Lithuanian military but of course you couldn’t do anything and had to be underground otherwise you would be executed by the Soviets.
“They’ll have a lot of conversation about how the Lithuanian Partisans operated during back in the 1950s during the Soviet rule. They’ll come up in their garb, they’ll have uniforms and usually have a lot of displays,” Domalakes said, adding that many attractions will be arranged throughout the hallways and classrooms of the adjoining former Holy Family school.
However, that won’t be the only martial demonstration of the days, as the Pennsylvania National Guard will be on hand to talk about the 25th anniversary of their State Partnership Program with Lithuania, which was started by the Department of Defense following the disintegration of the ruling Soviet Union as a way to rebuild affected countries’ militaries and democracy.
“The different National Guards in the United States have basically adopted countries. Fortunately for us, our Pennsylvania National Guard had adopted Lithuania,” Domalakes said. “It’s the 25th anniversary for starting this. It started on a military basis mostly. They would come over and talk about strategy and different military techniques” at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Eventually, Domalakes said, a rapport was built and the Lithuanians were brought to Frackville due to the town’s strong Lithuanian character.
“They loved having hot dogs and hamburgers and Yuengling beer” at the cookouts they were invited to, Domalakes said.
The military partnership evolved into a “societal type of change, and they started creating sister cities. For example, Bethlehem was a sister city to Kaunas in Lithuania. They would get on the non-military side where they would look at economic and social issues that maybe were common problems between the two cities and
how they handled things,” Domalakes said. “In the past, we had the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States attend.”
Citizens will round out the event with a mini Lithuanian bazaar and music to boot.
Hailing from Baltimore, the Malunas Dance Ensemble will perform and invite crowd interaction. Augis will play music, including sing-alongs, and Lynn Cox, roaming troubador, will play accordion with some musical accompaniment from the Partisans.
The council youth group, led by Karen Domalakes, will put on skits based on a folkloric legend of the country. There will also be demonstrations from Spins and Needles about sewing and knitting, while the Luschases will be doing etchings on eggs, called marguciai — not to be confused with pysanky.
Myriad vendors will be selling wares such as jewelry, Lithuanian clothes and art, local woodworks and carvings, amber jewelry done with specific Lithuanian amber, linens and smoked packaged foods for take home. There will also be food for sale to benefit the Lithuanian Council, with a few new recipes. The pierogies will be supplied by Fisher’s Boston Pierogies, Shamokin, while M&M will be providing the halupkies. The council members themselves make bandukies, halushki, borscht and lapiene, a kale and potato soup, among other things. Shenandoah food purveyors Lucky’s and Capitol Food Market will be providing kielbasa and kugel, respectively. All fresh food is available for takeout, Domalakes said.
At the end of the day, Domalakes said, he hopes the event can pull on the deep-seated culture that young people seem to miss out on.
Heritage and “ethnic ways seem to be lost on our younger society,” he said, and added that although many people attending expect the Lithuanian culture from the time they’re ancestors left to the U.S., it isn’t always going to be that way.
“It’s a modern live country. One of the focuses of Lithuania when we were over there was that they were looking at an economic niche they wanted to create. They wanted to be the IT capital of the world, or at least of Europe,” he emphasized. “A lot of people, because they come and see the old dancing and costumes and that kind of stuff, they think of it as an old country. It’s a vibrant, modern country.”
For more information, visit www.kofl144.weebly.com.
The Malunas Dance Ensemble will perform at this year’s Lithuanian Days celebration, which will be held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Annunciation Hall, Frackville.