The Croatian Fest Committee is busy with preparations for the 19th annual fest. It will be Saturday, July 30 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 922 West State St., Centerville. The committee gets a jump-start each year when they prepare lunch on Father's Day for a tour group from Iowa Wesleyan College. Each year the group of 30 to 40 comes to Centerville on their tour of Iowa and the committee prepares ethnic food, dress in ethnic costume, present a program on Croatian history of Appanoose county and sing Croatian songs for the group.
Croatian immigrants contributed much to the growth of the Appanoose county area. A few migrated from Yugoslavia (now Croatia), settling first in Pennsylvania where they worked in the steel yards. Eventually, some came farther west to work in the coal mines. When word reached relatives that jobs were plentiful in the United States, many more immigrants followed. The countries they left were very poor, but they had dreams of making a better life for their families in a new country.
The immigrants came to wherever they had relatives living: Rathbun, Cincinnati, Mystic, Sunshine, Streepy and other towns near Centerville. Because of this, the area is rich in Croatian history. Each year in July, the heritage is celebrated with colorful ethnic costumes, music, dancing and entertainment, as well as home cooked ethnic dishes prepared by the Croatian Fest Committee. This year the celebration will be held Saturday, July 30 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 922 West State St., with opening ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11:00 to 1:00. The menu includes steak and polenta, pigs-in-a-blanket and kraut and the very popular Croatian nut roll.
The Jerry Beauchamp Band will entertain from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.. They will then provide the music for a polka mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church at 5:30 p.m. Organizers of the event say they would like to invite everyone to join them for the polka mass, and then come to the Knights of Columbus Hall for a dance from 7:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. The band plays all types of music. A sandwich plate special will be served at the dance.
Croatian Fest is a wonderful time to share in the Croatian heritage, they say, and also a time to remember the community's heritage. They add that whatever nationality are residents are, it is important to talk to children and their children - "Once the information is lost, it is lost forever."