Besides being just a celebration of cultural heritage, the Sugar Creek Slavic Festival is also regarded as a “big family reunion” of sorts.

“I’ve had family from Oregon and Atlanta (Georgia) who flew here to attend,” said Debbie Ray, a Slavic Festival coordinator. “It’s a chance to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

The 29th annual Sugar Creek Slavic Festival started Friday and continues today from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Mike Onka Memorial Building Grounds, 11520 Putnam Street in Sugar Creek. Admission is $3 and kids ages 12 and under are free.

There are nearly “2,600 cabbage rolls” waiting to be eaten, along with a smorgasbord of Eastern European cuisine such as povitica (walnut bread), Croatian potato salad and tons of kielbasa (Polish sausage) that all can be polished off with ice cold Boulevard Wheat beer from a Boulevard Brewing Company’s tractor-trailer parked right in the middle of the festival grounds.

And despite the forecast calling for rain today, Ray added the festival will go on rain or shine.

This year’s festival also marks the return of the Grammy Award-winng polka group, Brave Combo, who haven’t performed at the Slavic Fest in four years, said Allen. They are scheduled to play at 9 p.m.

Another highlight making its debut this year is the Miss Czech-Slovak Missouri Pageant, where Ray said three female contestants - two locals and one from St. Louis - will compete for a crown. She said they will be evaluated by a panel of judges, which include the current Miss Czech-Slovak USA and former Miss Czech-Slovak Missouri. The contestants will be judged on their knowledge of their cultural and family’s history, kroj (tradtional ethnic garment) and display of talent. The pageant will be held tonight at 8:30 p.m.

As you are eating traditional grub, listening to the signature sound of East Europe (polka) and reuniting with old friends, there also will be an authentic 16th century Polish Hussar warrior decked in plated armor wandering the festival grounds, as well as a variety of exhibits inside the Mike Onka Building detailing the history of Eastern Europe.

The perennial event in Sugar Creek is perhaps the premier Eastern European festival in the entire state.

“It’s simply a fun family event,” said Ray. “Also, a festival to see the people you’ve grown up with.”