News: Ancient Solvenian Tradition Celebrated (1987)

Contact: George Plautz


Surnames: Lesar, Plautz, Podobnik, Klapataskas, Snedic, Bayuk, Kirn, Krainz, Govek, Pakiz

----Source: Times Review, October 15, 1987, pg. 4


An ancient tradition revived

Parish celebrates 'Vinska Trgatev'

By Dean Lesar, Loyal Tribune-Record-Gleaner

(Reprinted with permission.)

Watchmen Juilus Klapataskas, left and Emil Podobnik, far right escorted George Plautz to see the judge for stealing fruit at the "Vinska Trgatev"

celebrated at Holy Family Parish in Willard Oct. 4.


WILLARD - The Slovenian community of Willard revived a tradition Sunday, Oct. 4, celebrating a Harvest Festival for the first time in' 35 years.


For many of the older Slovenes, those who remembered the last "Vinska Trgatev," the merriment was a breath of the past, a chance for them to celebrate an autumn harvest season as they did as children and young adults.

In reliving the festivals of days long gone, the adults offered a glimpse of their former lives to the newest generation of the rich culture. Several teen-age youths took part in the ceremony alongside their grandparents.


To the ancestors of today's Slovenes, the Vinska Trgatev, or harvesting of the grapes, was originally a ritual performed "to ward off evil and to enlist the aid of friendly supernatural powers in their daily struggle for life."

Over the years, the intention changed to a social event, a means of preserving the customs of old.


The festival was held in the West Side Hall in Willard, the same site as was used in the 1940s and 1950s.


The ritual begins when a group of colorfully clothed Slovenians march into the hall behind the "mayor" and his wife, this year played by John and Ann Snedic.


A group of "harvestors" follow, singing and making their way underneath a ceiling of fruit - grapes, apples, pears and candy strung from above.


Seated beneath the fruit are the "watchmen," Emil Podobnik and Julius Klapatauskas, who according to the custom, fall asleep while entrusted with the duty of protecting the fruit from thieves.

The mayor catches the watchmen in their slumber and promptly whisks them off to a makeshift jail, until they are bailed out by friends and neighbors.


The mayor warns the congregation about the stealing of fruit from the arbor, and announces that anyone so caught faces a fine or jail sentence from the judges, Don Kirn and Ed Bayuk. Fines were collected by clerks Frank Govek and Val Krainz.

Proceeds from the levied fines are used to offset the cost of preparing the festival.


The group then gathers around a table, and after the mayor praises the season's harvest, they eat and sing.


When the meal is complete, the mayor calls upon the orchestra, Frank and Dennis Pakiz, to playa waltz to which he and his wife dance.


The rest of the participants join in the dance and the word is given that stealing of the fruit may begin.


The harvestors are ready for the plundering thieves as they pluck fruit from the arbor. All in good fun, the thieves - any of the guests present - are willingly led to face the decision of the judges.


If when levied a 25 cent or 50 cent fine, the thief is unable to pay, he or she is tossed into the jail to await the offering of bail from a friend.


The scene grew quite lively as youngsters leaped and dashed to steal an apple or piece of candy only to be grabbed~ by a harvester and led away.


Old-timers also joined in the thievery, just as some of them did at the last festival in the late ' 1940s or early 1950s.


Val Krainz was one of the people present this year and at the last Vinska Trgatev.


He recalls that the ceremony was not as complete then, with less singing. "You just came in and started swiping the fruit," he remembers.      


This year Krainz bought the centerpiece of the arbor - a huge combination of grapes and other fruits - in an auction. He paid $125.


Krainz also bought the centerpiece at the last festival, paying about $17, he said.


The spirit of the harvest celebration was rekindled as part of Holy Family Parish's 75th anniversary celebration.


Dorothy Petkovsek and Marion Herrick seryed as co-chairpersons of the event.




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