LORAIN — This year's Lorain International Festival may have gotten an early start with events Saturday and Sunday, but Monday's breakfast at DeLuca's Place in the Park gave the weeklong festival its official opening.
In attendance were local officials and festival organizers, the 22 princesses vying for the title of queen, members of the spotlight Macedonian community, Rotarians — the spotlight organization — and other members of the community.
Mayor Chase Ritenauer welcomed festivalgoers to the start of summer in Lorain.
"I don't care when summer officially starts — in the city of Lorain, Ohio, it starts International week," he said.
Thomas Jovanovski, a professor at Baldwin-Wallace University and Lorain County Community College who was born in Macedonia, gave the keynote address.
He gave an extensive lecture on both the history and culture of Macedonia before highlighting some successful Macedonians the crowd might be familiar with.
"You can take a Macedonian out of Macedonia, but you can't take Macedonia out of a Macedonian," he said. "Wherever we go, regardless of the country, we usually have gardens — we have peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and so on.
"Practically there is no Macedonian family, especially if you have a house, that does not have some kind of a garden."
Mike Ilitch, owner and founder of Little Caesar's pizza who also owns the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, is a prime example of a successful Macedonian, he said.
"Next time you'd like to eat pizza, please consider Little Caesars, not because he's a Macedonian but because they're using Macedonian tomatoes," he said to laughs from the audience. "No that's true — I'm not trying to be facetious — that's actually true. He's importing Macedonian tomatoes from Macedonia."
Locally, he pointed out Chris Manofski of Chris' Restaurant.
"One of my favorite places," Jovanski said. "He has been a mainstay here since the late 1950s. Anybody who has been living in Lorain and hasn't heard of Chris' Restaurant or Chris Manofski must be living under a rock."
Macedonians are an ancient, Biblical, indigenous population dating back to 2200 B.C., according to Marija Georgievski, who is leading the community's effort in the spotlight at this year's festival along with other members of St. Clement Macedonian Orthodox Church in Avon.
Located in southeastern Europe, the land of Macedonia is filled with scenic mountains and three large lakes and has a relatively warm and dry climate. The country is about the size of Northeast Ohio, Jovanovski said.
Macedonians speak the Macedonian language, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. A majority of Macedonians are of the Eastern Orthodox religion and follow the Julian calendar, meaning most Macedonians celebrate religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter several days, or even several weeks, after Roman Catholics and Protestants.
Jovanovski explained that Macedonians greet one another by saying "zdravo" (pronounced zdrah-vo), which is essentially the word "health," as they inquire about their well being.
As International Festival enters its 47th year, Ritenauer praised the diversity of Lorain that makes it all possible.
"We live it each and every day. We commemorate it with International Festival," he said.
Contact Rona Proudfoot at 329-7124 or email@example.com.