Date: February 12, 2006
Place: St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Sun City, Arizona
This celebration of Lithuanian Independence was hosted by the Arizona Chapter of the Lithuanian-American Community. The festivities started with a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated by The Most Reverend Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, followed by a luncheon and a cultural program in the parish hall. The food for the luncheon was prepared by Aldona Gencius, who single-handedly prepared over 1000 Lithuanian dumplings and a large number of krustai for this feast - an incredible gift to our community.
After a brief welcome by Rimantas Vaitkus, our m.c., prof. Stanley Vanagunas, took over the running of the program. The first half of the program began with the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, the Lithuanian anthem, and a minute of silence to honor those who gave their lives for Lithuania's freedom. Mark Shoban read Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano's proclamation declaring February 16th as Lithuanian Day in Arizona. Prof. K.P. Zygas read a congratulatory letter from the ambassador of Lithuania to the U.S., The Hon. Vygaudas Usackas. Kestutis Eidukonis, LC, USAR Ret., read a resolution calling our political leaders to support close political and economic ties with Lithuania. The resolution was accepted unanimously. Copies of this resolution have been forwarded to Arizona's Congressmen and Senators, and the President of the United States. This ended the short formal part of the day's program.
During the short intermission, guests had the opportunity to enjoy a large display of jewelry, sashes, bookmarks, and other art by Milda Kvedaras. Milda is a resident of Sun City and is well-known for her beautiful work in many Lithuanian communities.
The cultural part of the program started with five Lithuanian folk dances, "Our Ancestral Land", "Black Jonkelis", "Hat Dance", "Wooden Shoe Dance", and "The Picnic Polka", performed by the folk dancing ensemble Jura ("Sea") from San Diego directed by Stasys and Giedre Milasius. The dancers who performed for us were Egle Bitinaite and Paulius Pazera, Drs. Rita and Arnoldas Ceponis, Ausra and Saulius Vabalas, and Audrey and Vytenis Veitas. Jura was organized in September 1999 by Stasys and Giedre Milasius. The ensemble participated in the 2000 Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Toronto, 2003 Lithuanian Days in LA, and in numerous cultural events in San Diego and vicinity.
Our own Aldona Gencius (whom we share with Toronto, Canada) recited two Lithuanian poems - "There Is A Land" and "I Will Not Leave My Homeland". Aldona is multi-talented, she is not only one of the best chefs around, but also has a great singing voice, and a special way with poetry.
The program was capped by eight Lithuanian songs performed by The Three Sisters Grikavicius trio from California: "Little Bells", "Autumn Will Come", "By The River Nemunas", "I Go Alone", "White Doves", "I Like", "Many Many Songs", and "Red Rose". The "Red Rose" finale was particularly appropriate, because it was just two days to St. Valentine's Day. LA natives Mimi (Emilija), Ani and Loretta Grikavicius started singing Lithuanian songs at home with their mother Ona and brother Vytas. Father Jonas accompanied them with his accordeon. They started singing professionally in 1987, performing at weddings, private parties, Lithuanian Days in LA, and Knights of Lithuania events. In 1989 they toured for three weeks in Lithuania, performing in six cities. Popular Three Sister's music has been recorded on two CDs.
Our special thanks goes to all the people who volunteered their time and efforts to make this celebration a success: Lee Aleksa helped us to get access to the hall; Arunas Draugelis, Algis Kvedaras, Casimir Matonis, and Rimas Vaitkus prepared the hall; Gilanda Matonis decorated the hall; Aldona Gencius prepared the Lithuanian dumplings and krustai; Onute Damaite Fielding organized the dessert table; Ligina Algin, Aldona Baleika, Onute Fielding, Elaine Hilton, Juzefa Jakubenas, Grazina Karsas, Milda Kvedaras, Rita Martinaitis, Gilanda Matonis, Birute Strouse, and Aldona Vaitkus brought desserts; Don Adamavich, Irena Draugelis, Nancy Rossano and Aldona Vaitkus helped out in the kitchen; Monique Rossano served the tables; Onute Fielding was our photographer; Algis Motiejunas sold tickets; Martin Karsas collected donations; Don Adamavich, Irena Draugelis, Nancy Rossano, and Aldona Vaitkus cleaned up the kitchen; and Ivor Rene Fielding, Algis Kvedaras, Casimir Matonis, Vytas Reklaitis and Mark Shoban straightened out the hall.