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St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church Marks 50 Years as a Church and 50 Years at Holiday Folk Fair International

Nov. 13, 2013

Celebrating 50 years at Holiday Folk Fair International and 50 years as a congregation are the dancers from St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church in Cudahy. St. Nikola was established in 1963 and the dancers have been representing their parish and Serbian culture at Holiday Folk Fair since then.

Holiday Folk Fair International, a program of the International Institute of Wisconsin, will be held Fri., Nov. 22 – Sun., Nov. 24 in the Wisconsin Exposition Center at Milwaukee’s State Fair Park.

Sue Davis of Eagle choreographs this year’s group from St. Nikola. Davis is a member of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church (State Street) in Racine, sister church to St. Nikola. “I used to dance in the Serbian adult group from St. Nikola for many years,” she said.

This is her first year teaching the teen group (15 to 18 years old) and her third year with the children’s group (5 to 12 years old).

The teen group is made up of girls from St. Nikola as well as St. George’s. “The six girls from Racine have never been to Holiday Folk Fair, so it will be quite an experience for them,” Davis said. “I don’t speak Serbian but all the teens speak it fluently. I asked if one of them could say a greeting in Serbian and engage the crowd. One of my teens immediately raised their hand and offered to do it.”

Davis has choreographed a dance known as Cacak for the children. “It’s a fast moving dance, and usually danced among close friends who form a kolo (circle dance),” she explained. “The teens will perform Igra-Iz-Tirota, which is a kleka, also a fast-paced dance. The most important thing with Serbian music is you have to feel it. You either have it or you don’t.”
The performers will wear traditional Serbian costumes: red velvet skirts and vests with gold threading, white aprons and blouses embroidered with flowers, and hand-knitted black socks from Serbia.

Davis rehearses the group every Sunday after services and she commutes an hour from Eagle to do so. “I have so much respect for the Serbian Orthodox church. I wanted to give back because for so many years they let me represent them,” she said. “I love doing it and that’s what it is all about. We show a little bit of our heritage and we are proud of it. I told my teens that have never been to Holiday Folk Fair that they will get people coming up to them asking what country they are representing. I tell them to proudly say Serbia and tell them what you know about the country. That is the whole idea of Holiday Folk Fair – people learning about other cultures and traditions.”

Holiday Folk Fair Memories
Muskego resident Milan Nikolic, president of the board at St. Nikola, was among the first group of Serbian dancers to perform at Holiday Folk Fair after he immigrated to Milwaukee in 1954. “The first Serbian dance group that performed was associated with St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

When St. Nikola became a church, we applied for us to participate, and we have always had dancers there,” he said. Nikolic and his wife, Irene, formed the St. Nikola youth group in 1971 and led them for 26 years.
His fondest memories are when he was able to perform with his two daughters. The Nicolic’s three grandchildren, now all in college, were also dancers representing St. Nikola.

Nicolic has attended every Holiday Folk Fair and doesn’t intend to miss this one. “I’ll be there all three days and nights,” he said.

Dragica (Mimi) Shasko, a former member of the St, Nicola Dance Group from the 1960s, has many wonderful memories of the Holiday Folk Fair. “We were the first dance group to represent our church. I danced about eight or nine years and also choreographed most of the dances.

Participating at Holiday Folk Fair meant representing our church, religion, and pride in our culture. We also often danced at other ethnic community events and represented Wisconsin at the National Folk Fair in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Smithsonian.”

“The Holiday Folk Fair was an event that entire families could experience, for example, in our group my brother and sister danced and several other families had multiple siblings as well,” Shasko said. “Our parents and many of our parishioners attended and took pride in our performances.”

Shashko’s memories of Holiday Folk Fair extend to making new friendships and exposure to cultural diversity and the enjoyment of folk dancing. “It was a nice feeling that one could represent one’s ethnic group as well as learn about different cultures. Attending the Holiday Folk Fair gave one a broader perspective of the rich cultural heritage of the Milwaukee area.”

A program of the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate the Culture of Community,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to learn the ways in which music, food, dance, and art bring together people from different backgrounds.

Hours on Nov. 22 are 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Nov. 23; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Nov. 24. Advance tickets will be sold for $10 each, with family four-packs for $36, and available for purchase on-line at www.folkfair.org.

Admission at the gate will be $12 for adults; $8 for children ages 6 to 12; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. Those 62 and over will be admitted for $10, and all military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free. Those that bring at least two non-perishable food items for The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County will get a $2 discount per ticket on up to four regular adult admissions.

For more information on the 2013 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.

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