Minnesota Honors Several Croatian Americans at their 37th Annual Christmas Party

Total Croatia News

2017 John M and Tiffany s

Croatian Americans were honored in Minnesota at the 38th annual Christmas party. 

The Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota held its 37th Annual Croatian Christmas party at the Hrvatski Dom in South St. Paul on Saturday, December 2nd.  This sold out event is typically the highlight of the year for the local Croatian American community. The special guests to attend this annual event were Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich and Croatian Consul General Sanja Laković from the Chicago consulate office.

2017 John M and Tiffany s

John ‘Bud’ Minerach and Tiffany Senkow

The event started with Tiffany Senkow and members of the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra playing a special tribute to John “Bud” Minerich, a 93-year-old man from Austin, MN.  Bud lost his father to a burst appendicitis. Bud’s father, John Minerich had written an original composition titled “Gospred Korocnica” or Go Forward Marching.  For the past 80 years, Bud had been carrying this treasured original composition of his father ever since he had passed away.  Phil Minerich, Bud’s son had contacted Andrea Novak Neumann from the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota about a month ago asking if they knew of any Tambura player who could play this music for his father Bud.  Andrea coordinated the musicians while Phil and his family were on a cruise.  Andrea was able to engage Tiffany Senkow, a former Duquesne University performer, who was able to recruit five other musicians from the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra who also agreed to perform.  With only 20 minutes of practice, these professional musicians were able to pull off a beautiful touching performance that the family will forever keep in their hearts.

2017 Jim Malnar CCSM cert of appreciation

Jim Malnar and Andrea Novak Neumann

This year also featured the award presentation of the National Federation of Croatian American’s Cultural Foundation  (NFCA) ’40 Under 40’ winners Sam Miltich and Tom Forti.  The awards were presented by Chicago Croatian Consul Sanja Laković and President of the Minnesota organization, Andrea Novak Neumann who is also a NFCA Board member.

2017 40 Under 40 Award winners

Chicago General Consul, Sanja Lakovic, Tom Forti, Sam Miltich and Andrea Novak Neumann, President of the Croatian Cultural Society of MN

The first award was presented to Sam Miltich, who was the party’s bandleader from Grand Rapids, MN.  Sam is a self-taught jazz guitarist.  He started playing professionally in his teens, joining Paul Mehling’s Hot Club of San Francisco and toured internationally with the world-renowned Robin Nolan Trio.  Sam has performed on hundreds of stages from small towns on the Iron Range to New York’s Lincoln Center, although we know his favorite place to perform is here at the Croatian Hall.  In addition to fronting his own band, the Clearwater Hot Club, Sam records and performs extensively with Minneapolis based jazz singers, Connie Evingson and Charmin Michelle and other legendary musicians – too many to list!  Sam has received multiple honors and awards in the music industry as well.  Sam is committed to bringing world-class jazz to a part of the country where jazz performances are quite rare.  In addition to a busy touring schedule, Sam also hosts a weekly Jazz night at the local VFW.  He also organizes the Itasca Orchestra String Program Summer Jazz Camp which teaches young classically trained musicians how to improvise.


 The second award went to Tom Forti, who was the caterer who supplied the sarma and potica we had for dinner this evening from his own restaurant, Sunrise Creative Gourmet.  Tom is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas with a degree in Business.  Tom is following in his grandfather’s footsteps 100 years later in opening his restaurant using Kickstarter to raise funds to open their Grand Avenue location. Tom started his business by originally selling gluten-free pasta.  Today, Sunrise Creative Gourmet is a restaurant that brings Iron Range Favorites to Grand Avenue.  The restaurant is located right across the street from the famous Lexington restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to Iron Range favorites, his restaurant sells pizzas, porketta sandwiches, pastries and soups. It should also be mentioned that Tom’s family has a special connection to Bob Dylan. Their Hibbing Bakery was formerly a theater that was originally owned by Bob Dylan’s grandfather.

2017 Minerich family

Minerich family with Bud Minerach enjoying the music

The last award of the evening is the Croatian Cultural Society of Minnesota Annual Appreciation award.  This award winner went to Jim Malnar from Duluth, MN who was one of the original founders of the Croatian Cultural Society of MN organization with Joe Rukavina nearly 25 years ago.  In fact, Jim started attended the Christmas parties 37 years ago when only 15 people attended the event.  Jim was instrumental in managing the Duluth Croatian Club and has been a long-time active Croatian Fraternal Union member and supporter of the National Federation of Croatian Americans.


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