FARRELL — When she turned 50, Janet Buzzeo crossed off an item on her bucket list — rekindling her Croatian heritage.
Her grandfather was from Croatia, and her extended family celebrated the music, dance and food traditions, but her immediate family did not. Buzzeo changed that by throwing herself into her ancestry.
She and many others will celebrate their Croatian identity Saturday evening at the Croatian America Civic Club in Farrell with a Pub Night. This is the first time the club has hosted a similar celebration in many years, she said. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The highlight of the evening will be traditional Croatian music, led by Jerry Grcevich, a native of the Pittsburgh area who has toured in the U.S. and Canada with his group, Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra, since 1993.
He has also composed and recorded Croatian music and will be joined on stage by a collection of artists from other bands. On this night, the group will be called Jerry Grcevich and his “All Star” Friends Band.
The Croatian style of music has different tonalities and scales, Buzzeo said. She herself learned to play a prim, which is similar to a mandolin, and a brac, which is like a guitar. She plays in the club’s Veseljaci music group, which means “happy villagers.”
One of the club’s members, Drazen Jozic, especially likes the music.
“It tells some kind of story,” Jozic said. “It’s like a typical country song — you lose your house, you lose your wife, you lose your truck, your dog, but you get it all back.”
There will also be kolo dancing, which is performed in a circle and has intricate footwork and mimics the music.
“Wherever there’s a Croatian, you gotta have dancing,” Buzzeo said. “The dance floor is never big enough. We love our dancing.”
From the old to the young, they all have to work together in the kolo.
The Croatian celebration will also include homemade Croatian traditions, including cevapi, which is a sausage with no casing; kielbasa, which is smoked sausage; potato salad; and coleslaw, which will be prepared in the Croatian tradition with vinegar.
There will also be several store-bought items, including a flat bread called pogaca, sauerkraut and ajvar, which is a relish made from roasted peppers, eggplant and garlic.
There will also be homemade baked goods for sale, including cake, brownies and hand-pulled strudel.
Drazen and his wife, Catherine, will make the cevapi and coleslaw, using recipes Drazen learned from his mom when he was 12 or 14.
He said both of his parents, who were from Croatia, made sure their children knew their heritage. Drazen spoke Croatian in the house growing up, and can still speak, write and read in the language.
“It’s always been instilled in my head as a child to keep it going, keep your culture alive. It’s second nature to me,” Drazen said.
The Shenango Valley used to be rich with different ethnic groups — each one had its own home, church and market, Buzzeo said, but that is disappearing.
He said he hopes to continue to preserve Croatian traditions, which have survived world wars and domination by other empires.
Regardless of what the Croatians have suffered, Buzzeo said, they have held onto the beauty of their music, dance and food.
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Croatian Pub Night
Where: Croatian American Civic Club, 412 Staunton St., Farrell.
When: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with music starting at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Admission: $5 at the door.
Food Cost: A cheese plate is $5. A dinner is $7 and includes five cevapi, coleslaw, pota to salad, two slices of pogaca and ajvar. A combo is $10 and includes two cevapi, kielbasa, coleslaw, potato salad, sauerkraut, four slices of pogaca and ajvac. Baked goods are $1 each, with the exception of the strudel.
Prizes: A drawing for a basket of homemade wine and a liqueur called slivovitz.