It was easy to spot the Russian Community Center on 19th from a few blocks down the street—light from an open door illuminated groups of people entering and leaving Balkan Night Northwest. As we got closer, it became apparent that these people were sweaty and alive, many taking a break from the frantic dancing inside. I overheard a conversation that last year's attendance was so overwhelming that it spilled out onto the street. This year, an extra day has been added to accommodate the crowd. Just then we saw somebody we knew. "It's so fun in there," he said. "All of that dancing is exhausting."

Orkestar Zirconium on the Floor
  • Orkestar Zirconium on the Floor

Inside was a not-uncomfortably-crowded scene of people laughing, talking, eating, and drinking. Oh, and the dancing! A huge circle of people on the floor surrounded Orkestar Zirconium, every person holding the hands of the person on either side of them. The circle rotated and swelled while the dancers did a series of complicated-looking steps. I remarked to somebody that I'd never met that it looked so hard. "Just grab somebody's hand and follow everybody's feet, it's very easy." Everybody was so friendly, we'd stumbled into a wonderland!

Lucinda & Nick
  • Lucinda & Nick

"I made the sauerkraut myself," a tall man in an apron said has he thrust a plate into my hands. The sauerkraut was mixed with potatoes and there was a kobasica on a bun along with it. I was hardly hungry but I usually don't turn down food, especially when it's out of the ordinary. It was beyond delicious. There was talk of a must-try flaky pastry filled with cheese and egg and plates of dessert went back and forth. A tall bottle of Karlovačka Pivovara appeared in my hand. This kind of night just magically happens when you don't expect it, a night that you can't recreate and everything is wonderful. The tall man in the apron was now on the floor dancing to great applause, using the apron in a mock striptease.

Red Pants, No Shoes, Get Wild
  • Red Pants, No Shoes, Get Wild

Balkan Night NW is an annual celebration of the cultures of Southeast Europe, attracting people from the far stretches of the PNW. The second half of this year's celebration starts today at 4pm and goes until midnight. You should go!

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Balkan Night Northwest 2013 / 704 19th Ave E / Kids under 12 admitted free, adults $20