FRACKVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA — On Saturday, more than 400 people flocked to the 103rd annual Lithuanian Days celebration that has a new venue this year, St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall at 9 S. Broad Mountain Ave.
“This is good,” said Paul Domalakes, an attorney from Frackville, who is the treasurer for Knights of Lithuania Council 144, which hosted the event.
Previously, the event was held at the Schuylkill Mall, Frackville. But in May, the owner of the mall, NorthPoint Development, Riverside, Missouri, announced the mall would close later this year.
“I was sort of partial to being here. I had suggested this place as a fallback,” his brother, Schuylkill County Judge John E. Domalakes, said.
Suzanne Domalakes, president of the Knights of Lithuania Council 144, is the judge’s wife.
“It’s much more homey. The people are together. It’s more like a homecoming. The mall was wonderful for many years and provided us with a lot of neat things. But this is more like what Lithuanian Days is supposed to be. It’s a celebration and a real familial, family atmosphere,” Paul Domalakes said.
“There’s some parking, not as much as there was at the mall. But there’s better parking than there is at a lot of other places. And it’s fairly roomy. It’s not the ideal place, but it’s a good fallback,” John Domalakes said.
Where the event will be held next year is still to be determined, the judge said.
Cecile Stiner, Benton, Columbia County, a crafter who was demonstrating her skills in card weaving, thought the venue worked.
“And I think the stage is nice,” Stiner said.
Performers like the Malunas Lithuanian Folk Dance Group, Baltimore, Maryland, worked the stage all day Saturday.
The 103rd annual festival will continue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall. Admission and entertainment is free. It celebrates Lithuanian culture, cuisine, song and dance.
On Saturday, the event attracted many historians.
They included Anne Chaikowsky, formerly of Shenandoah. She and Darryl Ponicsan co-authored a 2016 book in the Images of America series, “Shenandoah.”
Now she’s writing one about the history of the Lithuanian people of Schuylkill County.
“I’m hoping to have the book done for next year to sell it here. Since there are so many people here, I hope they find a way to expand it next year. Look at this place. It’s crowded and that’s wonderful. I think it would be great if they would take it out to Primrose, where they hold the Ukrainian festival,” Chaikowsky said, referring to the St. Nicholas Church picnic grounds.
People interested in telling their stories can contact her at email@example.com.
Andris Jonas Dunduras, Cleveland, Ohio, curator/librarian of the Cleveland Lithuanian Archive Center, was there talking with local historians including Carol Luschas, Bloomsburg, the public relations/webmaster of Council 144, and Peg Grigalonis, president of the Mahanoy Area Historical Society.
“He’s trying to gather information from people here whose grandparents immigrated from Lithuania. The younger generation in Lithuania is trying to find their long-lost relatives. He’s an interesting guy,” Grigalonis said.
“What we’ve started in Cleveland is going very well and we’d like to see something similar here. And I also have connections with archives in Vilnius in Lithuania. There are people who are interested in the history of the coal region,” Dunduras said.
“It all starts at the grass-roots level. We want to see people taking an interest in their past, taking care of their family documents, their photographs and histories, even something as small as a church bulletin from 1957, which is a snapshot of what happened then,” Dunduras said.
The first Lithuanian newspaper in America was once published in Schuylkill County.
The Saule was established in 1888, according to “Schuylkill County Pennsylvania: Genealogy-Family History-Biography, Volume I,” published by J.H. Beers & Co., Chicago, in 1916.
The title is Lithuanian for Sun, Luschas said.
It was once published at a three-story structure at 337-339 W. South St., Mahanoy City.
Copies of the newspaper are on file at the Knights of Lithuania Council 144 Lithuanian Museum and Cultural Center, 37 S. Broad Mountain Ave., Frackville.
“Today, I’m here to assist if someone needs help with translation,” Dunduras said.
The event featured many historical exhibits, including one dedicated to the Lithuanian military. It was set up by the Lithuanian Partisan Living History Unit, Baltimore.
Among its members are Marcus E. Simkunas, Coal Township, Northumberland County.
He was dressed in a vintage uniform representing the 1944 Panzer Division.
“It’s Lithuanian, but it’s a German uniform,” Simkunas said.
Among the artifacts he had with him was a picture of his father, the late Stanislaus Simkunas.
“My parents were Partisans. They were resisting the occupation. I believe my father came to America in 1950. He died in 1992,” he said.
St. Joseph the Worker Parish Hall is remembered by many in the community as the former Annunciation BVM Parish Hall. St. Joseph the Worker parish was created with the July 2013 consolidation of St. Joseph, St. Ann and Annunciation BVM parishes.
For more information, visit the Council 144’s website, www.kofl144.weebly.com, and click the tab for the 103rd Annual Lithuanian Day.
The complete entertainment lineup can be found at the event’s Facebook page, “103rd Lithuanian Days.”
By Stephen J.Pytak/Republican Herald