Fort Wayne will play host to hundreds of North Americans of Macedonian descent this weekend during an event that is part convention, part family reunion.
More than 500 Americans and Canadians are expected to attend the annual Macedonian Patriotic Organization from Friday to Sunday at Grand Wayne Center. The event, which will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the organization, will feature a genealogy seminar and two traditional Macedonian dance parties open to everyone – Macedonian or not.
Featuring music by longtime local band Skimos, the dances are an opportunity for people unfamiliar with Macedonian culture to explore the diversity Fort Wayne offers, says Jordan Lebamoff, president of the organization’s local chapter.
The dances are a blast, he says. They’re so unique and different. And unless you’re a part of the Macedonian community, you might not ever get to experience the culture this way.
And don’t worry, impromptu dance lessons are available for novices, Lebamoff says.
You just have to go with the flow and you’ll learn the steps, he says. Everyone is more than gracious to teach you. My wife, although not Macedonian, is a much better dancer than I am. I do the 1-2-3 kick dances, so even I can teach a little bit.
The Macedonian Patriotic Organization was founded in Fort Wayne in 1922. Originally created by immigrants, the group works toward civil and economic rights of Macedonian people worldwide and to promote and preserve the ethnic traditions of the homeland. The dances are a way to do that, Lebamoff says.
When they’re dancing, you’ll see smiles on the kids’ faces, but you’ll also see smiles on the Macedonian grandparents’ faces, he says. They’re happy that their grandkids are learning their customs and heritage.
Convention participants will also take part in the rededication of both the Macedonian Tribune building on Wayne Street and the Freedom Monument at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, which was erected in 1986, thanks to fundraising efforts by former Fort Wayne mayor (and Jordan’s father) Ivan Lebamoff, who died in 2006.
It will be an important moment for me, Lebamoff says. I remember actually digging the hole for the foundation of the monument when it was erected.
The national convention was last in Fort Wayne in 1986. This year, Lebamoff is looking forward to introducing (or reacquainting) Fort Wayne to his family’s heritage, he says.
If you come, I’ll officially adopt you, Lebamoff says. We’ll just add the letters o-f-f to the end of your name.