SAN MARCOS — Come for the ćevapi, stay for the dancing. Ćevapi is a Serbian skinless sausage, one of many items on sale at the ninth annual San Marcos Serb Festival held at St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church.
And that was the ethos of the festivities on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29, according to Reverend Milovan Katanic, one of the church’s clergy. The festival serves as a major fundraiser for the church, as well, though Katanic added that it is not cheap to put the festival together and it requires an army of volunteers. It’s the volunteers, too, who make all of the food fresh the day of the festival.
Other menu items included pljeskavica (Serbian burger), serma plate (cabbage rolls), Nikšićko Pivo beer and a wide variety of Serbian desserts. The broader daily menu of activities included folkloric dancing performances done by both youth and adult groups, with one youth troupe named Vuk Karadžić making its way to San Marcos all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada and another one named Folklorna Grupa Srbija coming from Phoenix.
“People look forward to it, people like it, people enjoy the food,” said Katanic, who said many non-church members attend annually, with food as a main draw.
The church also held a futsal tournament, or soccer on a small field, during the festival and a showed presentation about the life and scientific discoveries of Nikola Tesla. Tesla, the namesake of the brand best known for manufacturing electric cars, came from a Serbian-American family.
And, being that it was a church festival, Katanic also led multiple church tours of the Bynantine-style place of worship.
According to the church’s website, St. Petka got off the ground in San Marcos in 1973 as a parish and opened its doors for communal prayer in 1991. It is located right near the Escondido-San Marcos border on the east side of the city.
Katanic said that there are about 200 to 250 families of Serbian ethic background in North County and that the church serves as a place where people of a common cultural heritage can convene under one roof. That said, Katanic added that St. Petka is open to people of all backgrounds and that it’s the Orthodox Christian religion that ultimately unites all parishioners.
“It’s one of those things where we have to work harder on just getting the word out,” said Katanic. “After the 10th and the 15th and the 20th festival, it becomes a part of San Marcos. And as a community we can try to keep our ethnicity and our customs and our ways and everything, but regardless, the church is sitting on American soil in San Marcos and we’re part of this community here in San Marcos. And we want this to be a recurring event every year so that people know we’re a part of this community.”
St. Petka is one of two Serbian Orthodox Christian churches situated within San Diego County. The other, St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, is located near Mission Bay in San Diego. Katanic said the churches act as sister parishes. St. George will play host to its own Serb Festival on Oct. 12.
Those seeking Serb culture and food outside of the annual festival in San Marcos can find it in May at St. Petka’s at its annual kolo dance festival, as well as at the Vesna’s European Market located just off of Nordahl Road on the Escondido-San Marcos border at 705 Center Drive, #101. St. Petka is located at 1854 Knob Hill Rd and the Serb Festival takes place annually in late-September.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.