The rollout of safe and effective vaccines that combat COVID-19 has prompted Crawford County officials to ease back on the safety measures put in place to slow the spread. The annual Little Balkans Day Festival was just another canceled event last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival has been held annually on Labor Day Weekend since 1985. After having to cancel the Little Balkans Days Festival in 2020, the Festival Committee is pleased to announce the event will return in 2021. The Little Balkans Days Festival has been planned for Labor Day Weekend, September 3-6, 2021.
According to the Little Balkans Days website, in an article written by Pittsburg State University archivist Randy Roberts, the festival is meant to “pay homage to the region’s history, ethnic diversity, and community spirit.” The article explains that the Little Balkans Festival Association, and the festival itself, were established to help restore the region’s image. The association’s main purpose was “to educate the public about the origin and development of the term Little Balkans and to plan and conduct a regional exposition known as the Little Balkans Days Festival.”
Laborers from all over the world immigrated to southeast Kansas to work the mines, smelters, and other industries. Most of the immigrants who came after 1900 worked in the coal field that extended through Cherokee, Crawford, and Bourbon Counties. These groups came from the region of southeastern Europe known as the Balkans. Labor unions became an important feature of the economic landscape of southeast Kansas. Labor unrest and strikes for higher wages and better working conditions occurred frequently. That caused labor unions to be an important component in the region. Because the economic and political climates were so volatile, the coal fields came to be called the Balkans of Kansas.
The Little Balkans Days Festival typically brings vendors, musicians, and other entertainment to Crawford County to help in the celebration of the rich culture and history of the area. This year the board is asking for the community’s help in determining what activities they bring back from previous festivals. They would also like community members to share their ideas for new activities.
Tara Tate Stanley, Pittsburg, Kansas, said she enjoys the festival every year.
“I enjoy the Street dance, and the kettle corn vender is a must,” Stanley said. “I honestly don’t think much needs changed. I enjoy it every year.”
The Festival Committee wants the public to know they are hard at work and will be announcing activities, events, and the entertainment lineup in the weeks to come. A post has been pinned to the top of their Facebook page. According to official press releases, funds donated in 2020 by sponsors and donors will roll over to the 2021 event. The board will also work with the Crawford County Health Department to create a mitigation plan due to the COVID pandemic. To help vendors who have been unable to sell their goods at festivals for the past year, fees will be reduced for the 2021 Little Balkans Days Festival. Artisan, craft, antique, and food vendors can get details and register online (LittleBalkansFestival.com/vendors).