Latvian Center Garezers prepares to celebrate 50th anniversary

How does a Latvian organization known for its youth programs, cultural and sports events, and outdoor church services celebrate its golden anniversary? By planning a three-day celebratory event to reflect all that is Garezers, according to Franz Bauer, head of the event’s organizing committee. He said the goal is to celebrate the past while inspiring the future, and that the group worked to create events for all ages and preferences, and to allow visitors to both participate and observe.

The celebration will begin on Thursday, July 2 with a beach party sponsored by the American Latvian Youth Association. On the morning of July 3, the inaugural Arnis Skulte Open golf tournament will be held at the nearby Pine View Golf Course, while children are invited to participate in games on the Garezers’ beach. In the afternoon, soccer teams representing the East Coast and the Midwest will compete for the Latvia Cup in a tournament on the sports’ field.

The art fair in the Klinklavs’ Gallery will also open on July 2. As explained by gallery director Līga Ejupe, this is a unique opportunity for visitors to purchase art by a wide variety of Latvian artists. Prices, styles, and techniques will vary, while the number of available artworks could exceed 300 – there will be something for everyone! Additionally, an arts and crafts market will be held in the Sietiŋi building, with various gifts and souvenirs – such as Latvian jewelry and t-shirts – available for purchase. Both markets will be open all three weekend days. The Boy Scout and Girl Guide museum will feature a special exhibit on scout events in Garezers.
The night of July 3 will feature the premier of a documentary film about Garezers and its history. The film is currently in production by filmmaker Māra Pelēcis , who is best known in the Latvian community for her documentary “Starp Latvijām”/ “Between Latvias” about what it means to be Latvian in the U.S. and in Latvia. Pelēcis spent countless hours last summer filming events in Garezers, as well as interviewing individuals about their work and time there. Historic photographs from the past fifty years will also be incorporated into the film. The film’s trailer can be seen at, where one can also pre-order a DVD and support the film at various levels. Bauer indicated that the goals of the film are to create a permanent historical document about the first fifty years, while getting a glimpse into the Garezers of the present. After the film, which will be shown in Dzintari, a grand fireworks display, thanks to a generous donor, will illuminate the sky over Garezers.

Saturday, July 4 will kick off with an official opening ceremony in the Grasis Paviliion. Then for a total of eight musical hours visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy performances by seven diverse performers during “Garezers-Palooza” in Atbalsis. Ranging from folk to rap, the groups include Čikagas Piecīši, Lini, Bob and the Latvians, Frikadeļu Zupa, Adam Zahl, All Folked Up, and Delete. Of note is the fact that several of these ensembles will be performing together again for the first time in many years. More music and fun can be expected in Song Valley at the evening celebratory concert and ball. Pauls Berkolds of Los Angeles is artistic director for the program, which will include over 150 singers and dancers. The evening will also feature legendary Latvian rock band Pērkons, whose participation has been made possible by Latvia’s Ministry of Culture and the World Federation of Free Latvians. The young and young-at-heart will further be able to spend the night hours dancing to music provided by DJ Ai-Va from Latvia.

The traditional Sunday morning service will take place in the outdoor church overlooking the lake, and will be led by Gunārs Lazdiņš un Anita Vārsberga Pāža. Afterwards, visitors are invited to sample foods provided by various Latvian-American chefs and bakers during the Taste of Garezers in Dzintari.

Visitors are expected from all over North America and Europe. Liāna Matison Williams spent her childhood summers in Garezers, and now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is 1,200 miles from Garezers. Yet, she will travel that distance to Michigan for the celebration to—as she explained— reunite with friends, share memories, and create new memories for the next fifty years.

More information about the celebration can be found on the Garezers website:

Photo: Children’s playgroup in Garezers, summer of 1979.

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