Folk dance festival planned for Ashland

The first annual international folk dance festival in Ashland, planned for Oct. 26 and 27, could bring visitors to town during a traditionally slow month.

Ashland resident Jasna Pecaric is organizing the festival with a cadre of volunteers. A folk dancing enthusiast for more than 15 years, she frequently travels to other cities that host similar festivals.

"The moments in life I remember most are when people gather to create an event with music, meals, dancing and singing together," she said. "I thought, 'Why not create one of those events in Ashland?' It's such a great community."

Pecaric estimated about 20 to 30 percent of people attending will be from out of town. She has spread the word about the festival through folk dancing newsletters and clubs across the nation.

Ashland has its own lively contingent of folk dancers who meet nearly every Friday night at the Ashland Community Center, located at 59 Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park.

The historic building will be the site for the festival, dubbed Zaba: Ashland's International Folk Dance Festival. Zaba means "frog" in Slavic languages, said Pecaric, who is originally from Croatia.

Events kick off on Friday at 7 p.m. with a Beginner's Dance Class and end on Saturday with a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. followed by live music with the Arcata, Calif. international folk music band Chubritza.

Each of the six members of Chubritza know several different instruments so that they can present the authentic sounds of music from many cultures, Pecaric said.

The Ashland folk dance band Ashfodaba, the newly formed Nastrav&

233; Bulgarian band and the SamoVila Balkan women's choir will entertain participants as well.

Pecaric said the festival is an event for the whole family.

"People who have never danced before, don't be afraid to come," she said. "We'll have workshops and music that will cater to all levels."

She said those who listen to international folk music and try the dances may realize that although all cultures are unique and different, people are the same in essential ways.

"It's a great opportunity to make this world seem not so large," she said.

If this year's festival is a success, Pecaric hopes it will eventually expand into an event that lasts up to a week. Cities like Arcata, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle host festivals that are popular among dancers, she said.

Pecaric scheduled the festival in Ashland in October because that is when the Ashland Community Center and Chubritza were available. She said she's not sure if the festival will continue in the fall next year.

However, the timing of the event is fortuitous for Ashland's tourism industry, which sees a drop-off in tourists after the busy days of summer.

Earlier this month, the Brews Boogie fund-raiser at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and the Bear Creek Salmon Festival at North Mountain Park attracted locals and visitors.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival season continues through Oct. 28. Smaller theaters Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland and Camelot Theatre in Talent stage performances this month, and Oregon Stage Works is home to the Ashland New Plays Festival from Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 20.

Rogue Valley residents frequently converge on Ashland for Halloween festivities on Oct. 31.

For more information about the folk dance festival, call Pecaric at 890-6889.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or To post an on-line comment, visit .

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