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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Bringing the Croatian centre into the 21st century at folk arts festival
Živa Grana Hrvatske, a Croatian ensemble, was the first of the acts to entertain the patio at the Croatian National Centre. (JULIA SACCO)

For Josipa Petrunic’s first time running the region’s folk arts celebration as president of Niagara’s Croatian National Centre, she took inspiration from other cultures. 

“We went to other folk arts events to see what it looked like. What do they outsource? How do they organize their lines?” she said.

The Croatian National Centre, on Line 3 Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, had its open house on Saturday to close off the Niagara Folk Arts Festival this spring.

Petrunic said she took inspiration from how she saw other groups organizing their festivities throughout the season, such as pricing the open house’s menu compared to other groups, like the Armenians, Slovenians and Germans.

One of the most important things Petrunic said she learned was the need for constant entertainment.

They added a soccer game and extra music groups to the mix.

“When the entertainment isn’t there, people leave,” she said.

Aside from the Folk Arts Festival, Petrunic said she is in the process of revitalizing to centre itself, along with the Croatian community. 

Petrunic, originally from Toronto, moved to St. Catharines during the COVID-19 pandemic and joined the Croatian centre.

“We joined during the pandemic and not much was happening for obvious reasons,” said Petrunic. 

Membership numbers have dwindled over the years, Petrunic said, as they do with most community organizations.

“On top of that, most women work now. So, you don’t have the 1960s, 1980s or even 1990s women at home that have time to volunteer,” she said.

Along with outsourcing help, Petrunic said a lot of other steps toward renewal are being made, like upgrading the centre’s insurance, financials and accounting – the small things that run the show.

“It’s boring, but you can’t run a business without it,” she said.

She said her goal is to bring back some of the centre’s old programs, such as language learning to help bring people together, and future programming for seniors, kids and adults. 

“This hall used to do six dinner dances every year, they used to have a language institute, they used to have a dancing institute. The thing is it’s now cool to be Croatian,” she said.”

Petrunic ran a test run of the hall’s new Visa machines with a senior’s lunch a few weeks ago and was met with an unexpected crowd of 45.

“That kind of senior programming is important, especially in this area,” she said.

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