Genny Kosub Kraus remembers sitting in her office 45 years ago, putting the final stitches on her costume, a traditional Polish dress. She was a mother of four and had recently linked up with a few other Polish women and some students at San Antonio College to learn a few Polish dances. They were preparing for their first performance, at what was then a new event known as the Texas Folklife Festival.

Now, 45 years later, Kraus stands at the front of the Festival’s opening ceremony holding a plaque, one of 12, commemorating the longevity of her involvement with Texas Folklife.

“I have never missed a year,” Kraus said. “And every year I dance — with God’s blessing of course.”

The Texas Folklife Festival kicked off its 45th year Friday at the UTSA Institute of Texan Culture, with performances from more than 20 cultural groups. The event will continue Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday, June 12, from 12-7 p.m. for $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Attendees are encouraged to take advantage of alternative transportation to and from the area to avoid delays.

The festival unites more than 40 cultural groups through song, food, and dance. Groups performed on each of the six stages for hundreds of people while vendors from various ethnic groups sold food, drinks, and souvenirs.

“This festival is the premiere event of Texas in presenting the mosaic collection of cultures and heritages that have collectively contributed to make Texas the great state that it is today,” said festival Director Jo Ann Andera.

Victoria, 9, holds her dancing shoes before she performs the with Ukrainian dance group 'Vaselka'. Photo by Scott Ball.
Victoria, 9, holds her dancing shoes before she performs with Ukrainian dance group Veselka. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Kraus is one of many performers who walk the festival grounds in full costume. Despite the 90-degree heat and beating sun, she wears a floor-length, high-collared dress. When her kids were younger, they danced with her, she said. They have since grown up, but on Friday night, she shared the stage with her son, Matthew. 

Kraus’ perfect attendance did not come easy. She recalled one year, back in the ’70s, when flooding caused City officials recommended everyone stay off the roads. But that didn’t stop her. She took the chance and drove into town, praying the whole way.

“I could never sit at home while this is going on,” she said. “I don’t care if I had gosh knows what wrong (or if) I was in a wheelchair, Genny would be here.”

She isn’t the only one. The festival is full of returning veterans — both attendees and performers. Emily Heard, a member of the Fire on the Mountain Cloggers who performed Friday night, used to drive in from Victoria, TX with her family to visit the festival as a little girl.

Kraus and Heard share a passion for their culture, a desire to learn about other cultures and a love for the Texas Folklife Festival.

“We all kind of become family,” Kraus said. “We’d go on (The Cajun group’s) stage at the end of an evening and they’d sing some So Long Cajun song, and I’d stand there and cry because we’d all become friends. It’s like a family reunion once a year.”

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Top image: Dancers (left) Vedant, 5, and Alex, 8, pose for a photograph in front of a dressing tent before they perform.  Photo by Scott Ball.

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.