Athabasca Advocate – August 22, 2017

Prosvita Hall celebrates its 70th anniversary in the community July 28

By Jessica Caparini

Located on a gravel road 10 minutes from the hamlet of Grassland, the community-run Prosvita Hall has hosted dances, funerals and sports events for 70 years.

Community member Eli Cholach remembers ball games and summers spent eating nickel ice cream outside the building. He was two years old when his greatuncle Nick Cholach senior donated the land.

On July 28, he celebrated the hall’s 70th anniversary with about 200 others.

“All my lifespan was around that hall,” he said.

The event was co-ordinated by the Prosvita Community Association. Cholach’s granddaughter, Crystal Holdis, said the event included cocktails, perogies and music. She said members of the association showcased recent renovations – new floors, a new bar and a casing protecting a large mural of a Ukrainian village an artist painted when the hall was built.

Vice president of the association, Penny Stewart, said the event “was fabulous. It was a sell-out.” Her highlight was the dinner, prepared by Minnie Skiba and Nellie Cholach.

“It was just a good old Ukrainian meal,” she said. “Like, you just can’t go out and buy that somewhere.” Stewart has been an active member of the association for several years.

“Whether we’re celebrating anniversaries or birthdays or just a good old Halloween dance, it’s just a place of gathering. We enjoy our community and our company and I think it’s important to keep that going. A place for our kids to do that,” she said.

Holdis said Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette and Athabasca County councilor Jack Dowhaluk made speeches at the anniversary.

“It was wonderful,” said Piquette. “It felt like being at an event hosted by an extended family … it’s actually really nice to see a healthy association like that. It kind of reminded me of what hall parties used to be like around this area 20, 30 years ago.”

Cholach explained that a 70 year anniversary is a big feat. “Local halls – all those old halls are gone by the wayside now, ours is still functioning. It’s a lot of pride.”

His family’s long history with the land continues through his daughter-in-law, who fulfills his old roll as the secretary of the association and Holdis, who is the treasurer.

“Roughly the same families that pioneered it are the same families that are still on the executive and running it,” Holdis said. “It’s been passed down through generation to generation.”

Cholach said the hall opened in 1947 after its founding members donated $960 and months of hard work to create it and that in those days, a gathering place like the hall was quite the accomplishment. Cholach also said that Prosvita means “enlightenment,” or “education without prejudice” in Ukrainian. It now provides event space for Athabasca County.


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