It doesn’t get any more “Cleveland” than this. A Slovenian Sausage Festival, put on by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame & Museum, at SNPJ Farm in Kirtland. Being invited to participate in this event means a lot to me…I’m half Slovenian. My grandmother would argue…the good half. And when your mother’s maiden name is Tomsic, you don’t turn down an opportunity to listen to polka music while crowning the next King of Klobasa.
It’s the biggest event of its kind in the nation, and with the largest Slovenian population outside of Slovenia, you can see (and smell, and hear) why Cleveland is the natural host for such a party.
Polka and sausage fans were invited to dance their calories away to the music of more than fifty accordionists and musicians brought in to perform. Guests got to taste sausages from several makers and then pick their favorites. There was definitely some lobbyin going on.
Prizes were awarded by People’s Choice and the juried Best of Fest. And here’s an honor: the winning sausage-maker becomes the official supplier to the three-day Thanksgiving Polka Weekend at the Cleveland Downtown Marriott Hotel. Who needs the “Sausage King of Chicago,” Ferris Buhler. We’ve got our own king!
For my role, I served on a jury with other distinguished judges, like the Lady Butchers from Saucisson, a Slovenian diplomat and fellow food writer, Debbie Snook, of Cleveland.com. So as not to be pursuaded by preconceived notions or family favorites, the tasting was blind. Truth be told, we did discuss the make up of the five contenders a bit.
It was interesting to taste it and examine the texture, color, seasoning and overall tastes, instead of just devouring them pretty quickly like I’ve been doing most of my half-Slovenian life.
In the end, to my delight, my long time family favorite, Azmans (of Euclid) was crowned the judges’ favorite. So glad to see these fine butchers and old world artisans rewarded.
It was a real treat to return to the retreat location enjoyed nearly every weekend by my grandparents and my mother, as a child. And I was tickled to watch my two year old eagerly finish her first Slovenian sausage, like she was born to, and see my girls enchanted by the magic of button box music like I used to as a little girl. Anybody who is old school Cleveland, or old world American, can certainly relate. And, dig in.