Retired Joliet Councilman Michael Turk will serve as honorary mayor of the Slovenian Harvest Festival on Sunday.
Turk’s duties will include attending a regimental mass at noon in the Cave of St. Joe and then preside over the festival from 1 to 8 p.m. at the former Rivals Park picnic area at Haunted Trails, 1423 N. Broadway St. in Joliet.
He will also taste a glass of Slovenian wine together with other distinguished guests, including Alenka Jerak, Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia, and John Vidmar, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for Illinois.
The Turk will then approve the grapes and announce, “Now is the time to dance.”
For the Turk, who is half Slovene (his mother is Irish and his Slovene father was born on St. Patrick’s Day), being mayor is a humbling honor and one that brings back childhood memories.
“My father had seven brothers,” Turk said. “And every Sunday night when I was young, any of the brothers who could would go to my grandmother’s house in Rockdale. She made a spread with homemade soup and homemade noodles and sausage. The adults were sitting in the kitchen talking. And the children would sit in the living room, play and watch TV.”
The Joliet Area History Museum is hosting the 2022 Slovenian Harvest Festival. The festival was an annual cultural celebration in Joliet from 1980 to 2005, according to the museum’s website.
Admission to the event is $5. Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, expects a good turnout.
“I have a personal theory — I’m not sure it’s scientific — that smaller, community-focused festivals are resurfacing and making a dramatic comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Peerbolte said.
The features of the day are polka mass, traditional Slovenian food, drinks, baked goods, live entertainment by Ray Koncar and the Boys from Illinois, Singing Slovenes, Marel and John Churnovic Dance Group & Slivo Express, according to the museum’s website. .
Participants can also see the still unopened Planinško museum of the Slovenian market, at Elizabeth 1314, which is located near the picnic area.
The Joliet Area Historical Museum is currently restoring the former 1929 Martin & Emma Planinšek Meat Market into a museum that will document and showcase the experiences of Slovenian immigrants like Planinšek, Peerbolte said.
The project is generously donated by Ken Odorizzi and Irene (Planinsek) Odorizzi, according to the museum’s website.
“We recently found a poster from 1919 that was hanging in a steel mill, written entirely in Slovenian and signed by Woodrow Wilson,” said Peerbolte.
The poster encouraged Slovenian immigrants to participate in the US census, Peerbolte said.
“Joliet is so rich in culture,” Peerbolte said. “You have an immigrant neighborhood culture and definitely an ethnic culture, and you still feel that in the city today. It’s one of the many reasons why Joliet is such a cool city.”
The Slovenian Harvest Festival is reminiscent of traditional celebrations in Slovenia that revolve around the annual harvest and harvest of grapes, as Slovenia is known for its magnificent wine-producing vineyards, the Herald-News reported in 2009.
In 2009, the 20th branch of the Association of Slovenian Women of America held the 29th Slovenian Grape Dance Festival in St. Joseph Park Hall. About 300 people are expected to attend, the story said.
In Slovenia, men in traditional costumes cut and crushed the first grapes of the season in wooden wine presses to prepare the grapes for wine, the story goes.
Past Joliet festivals included a “grape booth” with candy hung in bunches that resembled grapes because candy was less messy than grapes, the story goes.
Peerbolte emphasized that the Grape Harvest Festival is a holiday that can be enjoyed by people of all cultures.
“On October 2, all Slovenians are at the festival,” said Peerbolte. “I myself claim that I have no Slovenian origin. But they always treat me like I’m part of the family.”
For tickets and more information visit jolietmuseum.org.