Croatian Catholic culture will be on display this weekend with a festival of folkloric dance to mark the 30th anniversary of Mary Queen of Croats Church, Figtree.
Two community events are set to mark the occasion, with 150 dancers performing on Sunday at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre and, on November 3, Mass will be celebrated with the Bishop of Wollongong, Peter Ingham, and followed by lunch at the Figtree church.
Parish priest Father Ivo Tadric said the community had been preparing since last year.
‘‘I think it’s a big celebration for everyone,’’ he said.
‘‘The Croatian Catholic community here in the Illawarra is really strong.
‘‘We have about 380 families in this parish, with maybe about 1100 people.
‘‘About 20 to 25per cent of them are regular and come to Mass every Sunday.’’
Emily Ivaneza said she was looking forward to performing as part of the church’s folkloric dance group.
Emily, 14, said the bond between group members was strong.
‘‘We started out together about five or six years ago,’’ she said.
‘‘We learnt a new dance for the performances, called Konavlje.’’
Her brother, Mitchell, 16, said he enjoyed folkloric dancing and was looking forward to donning costumes from Croatia for the celebrations.
‘‘They look good on stage when we’re performing and spinning.
‘‘It’s a good way to recognise your origins and incorporate that into daily life,’’ Mitchell said.
The teacher of the dance group, Ivan Karamatic, said the celebrations were a ‘‘great compliment to our parents who actually built the church’’.
‘‘The biggest challenge was getting the bishop because he has an exceptionally busy schedule,’’ he said.
‘‘To make it even more special, Father Stjepan Seseljia, who was the parish priest at the time and main instigator for the church and centre, has come from Croatia,’’ Mr Karamatic said.