Novocastrians have been invited to experience the sights and smells of Croatia as the first Newcastle Croatian Fešta comes to the city on June 18.

The Fešta includes Croatian Folkloric dancing, traditional food and classic games such as Boće. Photo source: Folk Dance Federation of California.

“The whole intention is to revitalise the local culture and let people know that we’re still here,” said organiser Ojdana Ojdanic.

“We’re welcoming people to come and join us to share our culture, food and music.

“Come and join in the festivities and liveliness we have.”

Organised and hosted at the Croatian Wickham Sports Club Co-Op in conjunction with the Newcastle Croatia FC, the Fešta will include Croatian Folkloric dancing, traditional food and classic games such as Boće.

Activities will include amusement rides, mini soccer and stallholders that offer Novocastrians a taste of subcultures within the rich Croatian heritage.

“There are different regions of Croatia, so you’ll find that the coastal culture has a Dalmatian influence. Then there’s the mountains and the rich lands around the Slavonia area,” said Ojdanic.

“Inland Croatia has that Austrian Germanic influence, whereas the Dalmatian coast has the blend of Roman and Italian cultures.

“They all have different kinds of food and dress, reflecting our cultural influences over the many years.”

Newcastle has played host to a rich Croatian community since the mid 1970’s, which resulted in rich cultural gatherings, live bands and Boće competitions.

Popular Folkloric singing and dancing group ‘Velebit’, which had 30 to 50 local Croatian participants, had previously performed around Newcastle and at the Sydney Opera House and Entertainment Centre over the period.

Ojdanic said that while the local Croatian community was previously an active, thriving community, in more recent times, this had changed.

Ojdanic said that in the community’s more active days, 80 to 150 families had previously upheld a strong cultural base at The Croatian Club and wider city. 

“The Croatian Club used to be quite active in the late 80s and early 90s, and families since then have married out,” Ojdanic said.

“We’re looking at bringing back some of our old members that were part of that active community. The members who did folk dancing, soccer and those regular social gatherings.”

Despite the most recent Fešta event initially being scheduled for April, Odjanic said it was postponed multiple times due to implications associated with COVID-19.

“This is something that we originally planned to do pre-COVID in 2019 … it has been a long time coming,” Odjanic said.

“We were expecting people to come from Canberra and Brisbane – the Croatian community has such a spread, and it was a great excuse for a party.”

Ojdanic promised the second rescheduling would deliver an unrivalled cultural experience for Novocastrians. 

“Croatia is about family – it’s what we’re trying to push,” Odjanic said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, we are all part of a big family, and we’d love anyone to attend.

“If you don’t know a Croat, it’s even more excuse for you to come … it’s what it’s all about.”

Ojdanic said the festival would begin at 2 pm on June 18, before a ticketed gala night commenced at 7 pm.

More information on the festival will be released on the Croatian Wickham Sports Club Facebook page. 

Maia O’Connor

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent to here about the Croatian Festa celebrating Croatian culture here in Newcastle though in fairness the community here in Newcastle has been much more prevalent over many decades rather than just a brief period in the late 80’s and early 90’s that is mentioned in the article.
    The Croatian Centre in Tighes Hill with the adjoining Chapel became a focal point for the community from the mid-70’s and throughout the 80’s.
    There were dances with live bands held on a regular over the years at the Tighes Hill Centre and even the occasional wedding.
    In 1978 a Folkloric group “Velebit” was formed where many of the 2nd generation youth learnt traditional Croatian Folk dancing and singing. The group at times was between 30-50 strong in numbers and performed both locally and even at the Sydney Opera House and Entertainment Centre over many years.
    In the late 80’s when the focal point for the community switched to the Wickham Bowling Club, the dances and gatherings continued there with many of the 2nd generation now bringing their own children along and there was now also the added interest of the Newcastle Croatia Soccer club which unfortunately became defunct in 1994.
    The dances and gatherings still continued though well into the 2000’s and the 2010’s where mid-week Bingo nights and Bocce competitions also became regular features over many years.
    It’s important that we acknowledge the Croatian community’s presence here in Newcastle has existed and thrived for many years rather than a brief period linked to the Croatian club in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

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