SNPJ, Pa. (WKBN) – You may have seen the signs for SNPJ when driving through Petersburg in Mahoning County. But what is it?
SNPJ is actually a borough in Lawrence County — just a mile across the border in Pennsylvania. It’s 500 acres of land with 60 rental cabins and a 20-acre lake.
It’s also home to one of the most unique heritage museums in the area.
“Behind me is actually the beginnings of SNPJ. How it was started back in 1904 in Chicago, Illinois,” said Kathy Paulenich, the newly-elected director of the SNPJ.
SNPJ is an acronym that translates to “Slovene National Benefit Society.”
Paulenich’s family roots are from Slovenia.
“The National Board of SNPJ decided there should be a campgrounds. They bought the land — 500 acres — and, of course, through the years, renovations happened,” she said.
The SNPJ was dedicated in 1964. Even the pond was made to resemble Lake Bled back in the homeland.
“My father, being Slovenian, would bring me down here and they would have dances and jam sessions in the red barn. Many people remember that red barn as the start of the SNPJ Recreation Center,” Paulenich said.
From the beginning, she learned to play the button box accordion and embraced her Slovenian heritage.
The museum opened in 1976. It has authentic time period items like hundred-year-old accordions and even a still.
“This is just their traditional headdress when they are dressed in costume. They dress like you and I do in Slovenia but these are the festival things they would wear,” Paulenich said.
You can browse the displays and exhibits on Saturday afternoons in June, July and August. The heritage center is even set up with a self-guided audio tour. There’s also a section dedicated to America’s polka king, Frankie Yankovic.
“Everybody knows Frankie Yankovic,” Paulenich said. “You say the name ‘polka’ and it’s, ‘Frankie Yankovic, I know him! He’s a polka player!'”
The 38th annual Slovenefest will be held July 12 to 14 at the SNPJ Recreation Center. There will be music, food and Slovenian culture. There is an admission charge each day.