Cleveland Kurentovanje
Ohio Life

The Food, Drink and Furry Mythical Creatures of Cleveland Kurentovanje

This winter festival aimed at warding off winter and ushering in spring celebrates the city’s Slovenian heritage with an annual parade and party.

While many of us hide from frigid weather and gray skies, Cleveland’s Slovenian community braves both with a pre-Lenten tradition meant to ward off winter and usher in the warmer days of spring. 

Mirroring the Eastern European nation of Slovenia’s annual folk festival, which dates back to 1961, Cleveland Kurentovanje comes to the city’s St. Clair-Superior neighborhood each winter. The tradition began locally in 2013 and is perhaps best known for its costumed Kurents: tall, furry creatures that sport carnival masks, sheepskin hats and cowbells tied around their waist. Folklore says the beasts wake from their hibernation each year to send away winter’s chill.

“All [costume] components [aside from the cowbells] are handmade in Slovenia,” Cleveland Kurentovanje planning committee member Nicole Kusold-Matheou told us in 2018. “The Kurents also carry a stick with real hedgehog spikes around the top, [which] also are for scaring away winter.

The 2024 Cleveland Kurentovanje Parade & Festival is on Saturday, Feb. 10, but it is preceded by events in the week prior, including the Kurent Jump (Feb. 3) where the mythical creates make their first appearance, a Slovenian wine tasting (Feb. 7) among others. (Visit the Cleveland Kurentovanje website for a full lineup). 

On Saturday, the Kurents help kick off a small-but-mighty half-mile parade (it is February, after all) that also includes marching bands, floats and ethnic dance groups. Once the procession reaches the Slovenian National Home, guests are invited to come in for a daylong celebration during which they can get their photo taken with the Kurents, gorge on authentic Eastern European dishes such as schnitzel sandwiches and krofe (a type of fried doughnut topped with powdered sugar) and try imported beverages.

“There [is] a special Slovenian liquor called slivovitz,” Kusold-Matheou said in 2018. “Most people aren’t familiar with it, but it’s a really popular drink in, not just Slovenia, but most Eastern European countries.”

6409 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland 44103, 216/361-5115,

The original version of this article ran in our February 2018 issue.