This place, Southeast Kansas, with its proud ethnic mix and political tumult, was built on a rich intense history involving coal mining. This corner of the state was sometimes called the “Little Balkans” because of the variety of nationalities – French, Swede, British, Italian, German and Eastern European – who settled here to work in area coal mines.
The Little Balkans Festival Association, formerly Pittsburg Area Festival Association (PAFA), was organized and dates its official founding in September 1984. It is a non-profit corporation composed of Pittsburg area residents. The Association was organized to educate the general public as to the origin and development of the term “Little Balkans,” widely used in political and cultural discussions of the role of Southeast Kansas in the state.
In its existence, the primary purpose of the Association is to plan and conduct a regional exposition in Pittsburg, Kansas, formally known as The Little Balkans Festival. The Festival has been held annually on Labor Day Weekend since 1985. It pays homage to the different ethnic nationalities that migrated into southeast Kansas between 1890 and 1930, primarily from southeastern Europe. Through the exposition, the Association also intended to revive the King Coal Festivals held annually from 1934 through 1940 that emphasized the region’s ethnic diversity, coal mining history, and community pride, spirit, and unity.