Slovak Ball 2018
Slovak-American Cultural Center celebrates its 25th annual Slovak Ball
The Slovak-American Cultural Center (S-ACC) or as it is known in Slovak, Slovensko-americké kultúrne stredisko (SAKS), a non-profit based in New York, celebrated its 25th annual Slovak Ball this February. The Royal Manor, the venue for the Ball, was transformed into a Winter Wonderland with white hydrangeas, birch trees, snow- flakes, white glittering lights and even an ice sculpture to create a winter-themed atmosphere in the gorgeous ballroom. Upon entering guests were greeted with the signature “Snowflake” cocktail and by violinist Ladi Smigura who showcased his classical repertoire during cocktail hour. Later in the program he performed songs from various genres including his rendition of “Despacito.”
This year’s Ball marked its 25th anniversary. The inaugural event - “The Independence Ball” - was hosted in 1993, organized by the Slovak-American Cultural Center to mark the new state of Slovakia. In the short period of 25 years, Slovakia has become a global player on the world stage in politics, sports, theatre, and culture. The black tie event, which draws together Slovaks from NY, NJ, PA, CT, MA, and OH, was yet another success with more than 360 attendees including special guests from Slovakia. Among the many attendees were distinguished guests from diplomatic community including: H.E. Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the United Nations Michal Mlynar and his lovely wife Dr. Andrea Mlynarova; Consul General of the Slovak Republic in New York, Ladislava Begec and her husband, Deputy Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nation, Güven Begeç; Consul General of the Czech Republic in New York Miroslav Rames; and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the United Nations, Miroslav Jenca and his lovely wife Helenka Jencova. Representatives of various Slovak organizations also supported the event with their presence including Daniel Tanzone, President of the Slovak League of America; Nina Holy, Secretary of the Slovak League of America; and Ester Mlch President of the Czech and Slovak Association in Boston.
As the ballroom darkened, Moderators Sabina Sabados (President, S-ACC and Chairwoman of The Slovak Ball) and Peter Krajnak (Secretary, S-ACC) declared the Ball open - mimicking the opening of the Olympics after the showing a surprise video message from Slovak-American Olympic hopeful Nicole Rajicova. As she was preparing for her second appearance at the Winter Olympics representing Slovakia in Pyeong Chang, she wasn’t able to attend the Ball but was represented by her parents Tom and Anna Rajic.
Alexandra Apjarova, renowned former Slovakian rhythmic gymnastics champion, dancer, and choreographer then performed a gracefully elegant floor routine. Alexandra’s list of accomplishments has included performances at the Grammy's, Obama Inauguration Ball, with Cirque du Soleil, and as a cast member of Michael Jackson's "This is it" concert tour.
The invocation was given Fr. Richard Baker, Pastor of the united parish of St. John the Martyr, St. John Nepomucene and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Fr. Baker has been a supporter of the work of the Slovak-American Cultural Center as well as a long-time patron of the Slovak Ball. It was wonderful to have him back to the Ball after so many years. Clergy from various Slovak and American parishes and communities were also present including Fr. Vladimir Chripko, Fr. Stefan Chanas, Fr. Roman Palečko, Fr. František Čonka, Fr. Peter Bujdoš, and Fr. Patrik Hakoš visiting from Slovakia.
Each year the community gathers to enjoy each other’s company, celebrate the fašiangy (pre-Lenten) season, but also to take the opportunity to recognize and honor people of Slovak origin for their significant achievements to the Slovak community. To this end, at the 2018 Slovak Ball, the Slovak-American Cultural Center recognized the contributions of two extraordinary men that have enriched the Slovak community over the years through their dedication, commitment, and passion -- Mr. Andrew M. Rajec, President of the First Catholic Slovak Union, and Mr. Daniel F. Tanzone, President of the Slovak League of American and Editor of the Slovak Catholic Sokol.
Although both men were born in the US, Mr. Rajec to Slovak parents in Wisconsin and Mr. Tanzone to Slovak/Italian parents in Yonkers, each retained his Slovak ethnicity and pride in the Slovak culture, history, and language. They are leaders of and actively engaged in various Slovak organizations as well as holding prominent roles in their respective church communities. These incredible men have individually contributed to the growth and vitality of the Slovak community throughout the years.
Mr. Andrew M. Rajec is a graduate of Marquette University Law School as well as holding both a BS in Accounting. He has worked in national accounting firms like Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young and served as Sr. VP and General Counsel for the Mutual Group prior to taking up the role as National President of the First Catholic Slovak Union in 2007. Under Mr. Rajec’s leadership historic levels in assets have been reached total close to $394 million dollars -- the Society serving the Slovak community continues to grow in financial strength but, as a goal, Mr. Rajec assures that the Society is engaging with the Slovak community, supporting various activities organized by Slovak groups, supporting schools and students, as well as the clergy. Mr. Rajec is unique because even though he is at the helm of a multi-million dollar enterprise, he wants to make sure that the First Catholic Slovak Union (Jednota) continues to promote and propagate the Slovak language, culture, heritage and faith which is evident by publication of its newspaper, the Jednota. He is a true mentor in every sense of the word and is eager to promote and encourage the work of young people which is vital to the continued success of the First Catholic Slovak Union but as well as other Slovak organizations. In 2013 he was honored by the Friends of Slovakia as “Slovak American of the Year”. His holistic approach is what sets him apart from others and the reason the Slovak-American Cultural Center wanted to highlight and recognize his tireless work throughout the years.
Mr. Tanzone holds a Master’s from Fairfield University and St. Mark of the Lake Seminary and a graduate of Holy Apostles Seminary College where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English. I am guessing this is where his love of literature and passion for journalism started. Many of you have also seen him capturing photos for the Sokol newspaper which he has been Editor for the past 38 years! As a journalist, Mr. Tanzone has contributed numerous articles over the years to a variety of publications including authoring the book “Slovaks of Yonkers, New York,” as well as served on the editorial staff which produced the book “Slovaks in America - A Bicentennial Study” published by the Slovak League of America. He serves on the editorial board of “Slovakia” a scholarly journal published by the Slovak League.
Throughout his life, he has been an avid student of history. Mr. Tanzone is a legend in the Slovak community for his vast knowledge of the rich history of Slovakia and Slovak folk songs.
Mr. Tanzone holds leadership roles in a plethora of organizations too numerous to name but which include his position as President of the Slovak League of America, a society founded in 1907. He has been honored for his work in the community with the Presidential Gold Medal of Slovakia’s first president, Michal Kovac, in 1995 and was awarded by Pope St. John Paul II the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal” for the Church and Pontiff for his activities supporting various Church causes. In 2005, he was solemnly invested as a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York by the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan. Most recently he was honored by the Slovak Catholic Sokol as the 2017 Fraternalist of the Year!
After the presentation of a special token of appreciation to the honorees of the evening, the band, Express led by Marek Soltis, began to play live music and the dance floor was raging. The variety of modern, pop, traditional, and of course folk music was a wonderful mix to lure everyone to the dance floor.
The evening wouldn’t be complete without the famous Slovak Ball Raffle which, thanks to generous donors, included prizes such as: a private tour and coffee with H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the United Nations General Assembly; a weekend stay for two at the luxurious Hotel Elysee in New York City; Dinner for eight at the private residence of H.E. Ambassador Peter Kmec; lunch for two at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room with Ambassador Mlynar; VIP tickets to the IMT Smile concert courtesy of Consul General Ladislava Begeç; an airplane ride for two over the Manhattan skyline courtesy of Richard Marko; a gift basket and $500 gift certificate from FCSU; a weekend fishing trip for two in the Hamptons courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Hauk; private charter on Long Island Sound aboard the yacht “Epika” courtesy of Matus Culen; autographed memorabilia by legend Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins donated by Mr. and Mrs. Rendek; a private autographed figure skates and memorabilia by 2018 Winter Olympic figure skater Nicole Rajicova; VIP tickets to Slovak Fashion Night in NYC courtesy of +421 Foundation; and gift certificates to Czech owned restaurants in New York: La Cava, Vella, Bazar Tapas Bar and Restaurant.
After the Raffle, guests enjoyed a delicious roast pig, “pirohy", and other foods to re-energize and continue dancing until 2am!
Thank you to the generosity of all of our Raffle sponsors and to our financial donors namely First Catholic Slovak Union, Mr. Matus Culen, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hlavinka, Mrs. Etka Jendrek, Mrs. Judith Lepko, and Mrs. Tanya Pulver! Without their support the Slovak-American Cultural Center would not be able to continue to promote, preserve, and spread Slovak culture, history, and current events through organization of cultural, scientific, and athletic activities.
The Ball’s success is attributed to the many devoted members and volunteers of the Slovak-American Cultural Center that worked tirelessly to make the event possible. Congratulations to the Slovak Ball Committee-- for their pivotal role in making the Ball a reality. S-ACC hopes to continue the wonderful tradition of The Slovak Ball next year --- join us for an amazing evening filled with tradition, culture, live music, and glamour on Saturday, February 23rd, 2019!
Photographs courtesy of Maynard Wallace (prog4to.com)
More photos here