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BENEFITS : Serious Picnic Fun for Croatian Relief

October 01, 1992|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

A celebration of Croatia's culture Saturday in Rancho Santa Margarita will help raise funds for victims of war in the newly independent nation.

Croatia was part of Yugoslavia until it declared independence last year. Since then, it has lost about one-third of its territory in a conflict with Serbia, another former Yugoslav republic. The Croatian-American Society of Orange County was formed in February to raise food, money and medical supplies and to promote Croatian culture.

Serious though that mission may be, Saturday's picnic "is going to be a festive event," says Drew Renner, the society's public relations director. "There's going to be music and dancing and Croatian foods."

The featured dish will be peceno janje , barbecued lamb. Croatian cooking reflects a variety of influences that illustrate its past as well as its geography: Greek and Mediterranean flavors indicate Croatia's position on the Adriatic, and Germanic and Hungarian touches hark to when the nation was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. "It's a very colorful cuisine," Renner notes.

Likewise, the music reveals an eclectic heritage. "It's deeply passionate," Renner says. "The Gypsy influences certainly are there."

There are about 70,000 Croatian people in Southern California, many of them concentrated in the San Pedro area. Renner says it's difficult to know how many live in Orange County, but the growing membership of the society is roughly 300. The society's first fund-raiser, in May, drew about 350; more than $8,000 came in, and after expenses the organizers were able to spend $4,000 on humanitarian aid.

The group also collects food and clothing at its events. Blankets especially are needed. Renner says that winter in Croatia, which is fast approaching, can be vicious.

What: The Croatian-American Society of Orange County picnic.

When: Saturday, Oct. 3, at 5 p.m.

Where: Western Sheet Metal and Kitchen Equipment Co., 30061 Comercio, Rancho Santa Margarita.

Whereabouts: From the San Diego (5) Freeway, take the Alicia Parkway exit and head east, turn right onto Rancho Santa Margarita Parkway, right again onto Avenida Empressa and left onto Comercio.

Wherewithal: $30. $10 for children 3-14. Children under 3 get in free.

Where to call: (714) 564-1400.

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