The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 26, 2012

Traditions, new events part of Pittsburg's Little Balkans Days annual festival

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A few new events are slated for this year’s Little Balkans Days, a festival that has been a Labor Day weekend tradition in Pittsburg for 28 years, but organizers are keeping some of the long-lived traditions as well.

A spaghetti-eating contest was added to the lineup last year as a nod to the area’s Italian heritage, according to festival spokeswoman Amanda Minton. It was deemed a success, and it will return this year with sponsorship from Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s.

And because the festival is about the heritage of the area, heritage booths have been added to the downtown attractions.

“I’m a part of the Italian Heritage Society, and this year from 8 a.m. to noon, the booth will be at Sixth and Broadway to help people who stop by to learn a little more about Italian immigrants,” Minton said. “Hopefully, more booths from other backgrounds will join.”

Italian immigrants were among several nationalities that settled in the Pittsburg area during the coal mining days of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The area became known as Little Balkans, in reference to Europe’s Balkans area, one of the regions from which the immigrants came.

The festival celebrating that collective heritage began on Labor Day weekend in 1984.

Minton, who is in her third year as vendor director, has moved that portion of the festival north on Broadway, where the taller buildings might cast longer shadows and provide some shade. Vendors will be lined up from Fourth Street to Seventh Street.

At Seventh Street, the festival will be flanked by the main stage, previously stationed at Fourth Street and Broadway for performances ranging from youth dancers to bands.

The annual antique car show will be lined up on Broadway south of Fourth Street. Mike’s Carnival — the most popular event for youths — will be in the same location as usual, spanning about two blocks starting at First Street and Broadway.

J.T. Knoll will be master of ceremonies for the annual Folklife Festival in the Immigrant Pavilion, with a lineup of cultural and musical performers.

New to the festival this year will be the Best Pie in SEK contest at Memorial Auditorium, and an NFL punt, pass and kick competition open to all youths at Hutchinson Field at Pittsburg Community Middle School.

The street dance will be held from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Broadway, including performances by Area 51 and LiveWire.

Other events include a petting zoo on the lawn of Memorial Auditorium; the annual senior king and queen pageant and big band swing dance at Meadowbrook Mall; the Tallgrass Film Festival Road Show at the Colonial Fox Theatre; a photography contest; several sporting events; the annual chili cook-off; a baby contest; train rides; a quilt show; and a Pittsburg Community Theatre performance called “Moon Over Buffalo.”

Admission

Little Balkans Days runs from Friday through Sunday. Most events are free; a few require a Little Balkans Days button that can be purchased for $4 at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium, 503 N. Pine St.; Jock’s Nitch Sporting Goods, 523 N. Broadway; Sweet Designs Cakery, 311 N. Broadway; or at local financial institutions. Details: littlebalkans.com or facebook.com/littlebalkansdays.

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