The members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida/Kesk Florida Eesti Selts (KFES) look forward to the programs to be hosted by the Estonian American National Council (EANC)/Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendrikkides (ERKÜ) in conjunction with the EANC/ERKÜ meetings at the Hilton Hotel, St. Petersburg, Florida, which run from November 10-12, 2017.

The Estonian American National Council (EANC/ERKÜ) invites the public to a special interactive panel program that will start at 2:00 pm on Saturday, November 11, 2017, in the Hilton Hotel in lovely downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.

The free afternoon program will feature three interactive discussions on topics such as the current Washington DC political scene, local Estonian entrepreneurship, and ties between Estonia and the Estonian diaspora.

The series of panels will bring together the following experts and special guests:

Panel #1: “Advocacy Rock Stars in Washington”
Panelists: Michael Sawkiw, Jr., Executive Vice President, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; Marju Rink-Abel, EANC President; Karin Shuey, EANC Washington DC Director
Moderator: Eric Suuberg

Panel #2: “Florida Estonian-American Entrepreneurs”
Panelists: Sigrid Bratic, Partner, Little Greek Fresh Grill franchise restaurants; Merle Liivand, CEO, Swimera; Kaie Põhi-Latterner, Owner, TEC Inc.; Terje Van Schaik, President and co-owner, Greenspeed USA.
Moderator: Linda Rink

Panel #3: “Estonia and Estonians Abroad – Strengthening the Relationship”
Panelists: Marcus Kolga, President, Estonian Central Council in Canada and Senior Foreign Policy Fellow, MacDonald-Laurier Institute; Renee Meriste, President, Estonian Society of Los Angeles; Marju Rink-Abel, President, Estonian World Council
Moderator: Matti Prima

The program will be followed by a cocktail reception and dinner in the Hilton Hotel. Please contact Linda Rink immediately if you are interested in attending the dinner, featuring keynote speaker Estonian Ambassador Lauri Lepik. (Tickets are $75 per person, payable in advance.)

The Saturday program and dinner are in conjunction with EANC’s 2017 annual meeting on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The annual meeting is open to all interested parties, but prior registration is required, as space is limited.

For more details, and to register for the dinner, contact Linda Rink at erku@estosite.org or by phone at 215-546-5863. More information may be found here: Estonian American National Council website.

Nineteen members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) eagerly gathered together for lunch after our summer hiatus on Sunday, October 1, 2017. We took this October opportunity to hold our annual business meeting normally held in November. We met in the usual lovely private room in one of our favorite restaurants: Pier 22, 1200 1st Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205. We missed our former members, the Shipotofkys and Jaskas, who have moved away from the area. We also missed our members who have not yet returned from their summer venues, and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Jaan Kuuskvere was elected to run the annual business meeting. KFES President Kersti Linask provided reports from the KFES Board. Members of the Audit Committee provided a positive report confirming the accuracy of the KFES finances and financial reporting. KFES members approved the minutes of last year’s business meeting, the 2016-17 budget, and the budget for 2017-18. The Treasurer, Anneliis Kuusik, unable to join us today, was applauded in her absence for her exacting work managing KFES finances. All current Board members were re-elected to serve as the KFES Board in 2017-18.

Because there is cross-membership in KFES and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Central Florida, Pastor Priit Rebane gave the members an update on the status of the tiny congregation, which will no longer be holding services on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. Pastor Rebane will continue to be available for pastoral counseling.


Priit and Judy Rebane. Estonian Society of Central Florida/Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, Annual Meeting, 1 oktoober 2017, Bradenton, FL.

We have lots of exciting events coming in 2017-18. In addition to providing a preview of what’s coming in 2017-18, KFES President Linask provided exciting overviews of (1) the upcoming meeting and program of the Estonian American National Council (ERKÜ), which will be meeting November 10-12, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and we are invited to participate; and (2) our celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Estonian Independence, which will take place on March 10, 2018, in the Feather Sound Country Club (a new location this year). We invite you to add these events to your calendar now:

November 11, 2017: We will join the Estonian American National Council (Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendrikkides), which will be convening a special program in St. Petersburg (FL). Visit this website for more information: Estonian American National Council (ERKÜ). Please note: October 15, 2017 is the deadline for pre-registration and reservations.
December 9, 2017, 2:00 pm: Santa Claus/Jõuluvana will join us for a traditional Estonian holiday dinner with jõuluvorstid.
January 7, 2018, 2:00 pm: Estonian Soup and Sandwich Potluck Luncheon/Eesti supp ja võileiv lõunasöök
February 11, 2018, 2:00 pm: Lunch
March 10, 2018, 11:00 am: Gala Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Estonian Independence/Eesti Vabariigi 100 Aastapäeva Tähistamine
April 14, 2018, 12:00 pm: Our traditional April birthdays and Jaanipäeva potluck picnic

We look forward to seeing you soon!

For information about the Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, please contact:
Ms. Kersti Linask by email at kklinask@gmail.com
Ms. Triin Karr by email at triin.karr@gmail.com

Märten Vaikmaa, his wife Sunne, and children Iti (12) and Uku (10), our newest part-time neighbors from Estonia, invited members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) to join their friends and neighbors in a fabulous Jaanipäeva celebration in their beautiful waterfront home in Terra Ceia, Florida, on Sunday afternoon, June 18, 2017. Terra Ceia is a island gem. It is a little waterfront community off US-19 between the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Palmetto, Florida. We had sun, clouds and some raindrops, but the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits!

A dozen members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) joined at least three dozen friends and neighbors of the Vaikmaa family. Interestingly, once again we proved this is a small world. Friends and acquaintances who had met in other settings in the past connected again at this wonderful gathering. Some of us had first met Sigrid Bratic at one of her highly popular My Little Greek Restaurant locations in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it was a real delight seeing her and her family again here! Some of the men had met each other spearfishing through the St. Petersburg Underwater Club. And there were myriad other ways other folks had met in the past too!

We dined on delicious BBQ, prepared by Cocoribs Inc., Dominic Republican caterers located in Sarasota, Florida. A wonderful Greek salad and assorted Greek pastries came from Sigrid Bratic’s My Little Greek Restaurant. All of the guests contributed tasty dishes to the smorgasbord table and beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages quenched our thirst.

Children were especially welcome as this was a family friendly event. Lots of children and grown-ups too enjoyed the beautiful swimming pool.

Märten Vaikmaa was in charge of the jaanituli (traditional bonfire). Jüri Toomepuu cast a watchful eye. With a little help of lighter fluid on the moist wood, the fire took off.

A live band with Matt Coates and his ensemble performed all afternoon. At sunset, you could find couples dancing on the dock. The beautiful sunset also encouraged photography and romance.

The Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) extends a HUGE thank-you to the Vaikmaa family for their warm hospitality, this wonderful Jaanipäeva celebration, and the opportunity to establish new friendships. This was a very special day for the Tampa Bay Estonian community.

Before the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts (KFES)) breaks on summer hiatus, members and friends of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) gather for its traditional early Jaanipäev picnic and celebration of April birthdays. This year over 25 members enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together on Saturday, April 22, 2017.


Our birthday celebration. KFES, 22 apr. 2017, Seminole, FL. Foto: Lisa Mets

This year, the celebration was extra special with eight birthdays. Both born on April 18–only 94 years apart–we celebrated Leena Aare (94) and Brook Cabrera (1).


Reet Cabrera with our two special birthday girls born on April 18: Brook Cabrera (1) and Leena Aare (95). KFES, 22 apr. 2017, Seminole, FL. Foto: Lisa Mets

We also celebrated the April birthdays of Maare and Jaan Kuuskvere (shhh! Jaan is one year older than Maare!), Monika Orumaa Craig, Rein Männik, Silva Jensen, and Triin Karr.


Our birthday celebrants–Maare Kuuskvere, Leena Aare, Rein Männik in the back, Brook Cabrera with mother Reet, Monika Orumaa Craig, and Jaan Kuuskvere. blow out the candles. KFES, 22 apr. 2017, Seminole, FL. Foto: Lisa Mets

We moved the picnic from Anna Maria Island and returned to the condominium clubhouse and recreation center at the winter home of Inne and Heikki Joonsar. Thank you, Inne and Heikki, for hosting us once again. (We celebrated our soup-and-sandwich luncheon there earlier this year.) The recreational center includes shuffleboard courts and a swimming pool. Though there were no swimmers this day, we enjoyed a few games of shuffleboard. What fun!

KFES provided grilled sausages (an Estonian Jaanipäev tradition). Kaie Põhi Latterner was quite the grillmaster/grillmistress. 


Kaie Põhi Latterner keeps the grill under control. KFES, 22 apr. 2017, Seminole, FL. Foto: Lisa Mets

Members brought mightily delicious contributions to the potluck luncheon table, and we thank brothers Tõnu and Jüri Toomepuu for the celebratory champagne!


Anu Nerska and Goodie and Rein Männik. KFES, 22 apr. 2017, Seminole, FL. Foto: Lisa Mets

It was a great afternoon! Ja klassid kokku kõlaku!

The Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) is now on summer hiatus. Some snowbirds fly north and others fly to Estonia and beyond. We will reconvene in October 2017. In the meantime, if you are in our area, please let us hear from you. Some of us are here year round and we love to get together spontaneously. We wish you all a happy summer!

Nearly 30 members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida/Kesk Florida Eesti Selts gathered together for a potluck smorgasbord luncheon at the home of Kersti Linask, KFES President, in Clearwater (FL), on Sunday, March 12, 2017, at 2:00 pm. A feast and great conversation were enjoyed by all.

Our next event is our April picnic, which includes a celebration of our April birthdays (a lot of them!) and a send-off of our association members for the summer. The April picnic will be our last formal event of the year as we go on summer hiatus. Phew! It gets hot and humid here in the summer! We hope you’ll join us for the picnic. Information is here: Picnic Information.

Sel aastal Kesk Florida Eesti Selts tähistas Eesti Vabariigi 99. aastapäeva 25. veebruaril, 2017, Clearwater, Floridas. Nagu eelmistel aastatel toimus see ka sel aastal Countryside Country Club’is. Meil oli põnev ja tore kava külalistele!

Meie aukülalised olid tantsijad tantsurühmast Saare Vikat.

Kavas oli langenute mälestamine, maitsev lõunasöök, loterii, eesti muusikat, ühislaule, ja rahvatants. Saime kokku vanade ja uute sõpradega ilusas päikesepaistelises soojas Floridas!

Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, EV99, 25. veeb. 2017, Clearwater, Florida. Foto: Countryside Country Club.

Saare Vikat and Rannapiigad Enliven Estonian Society of Central Florida’s (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) Celebration of Estonia’s 99th Independence Day

This year 50 members and friends of the Estonian Society of Central Florida commemorated the 99th anniversary of Estonia’s Independence Day on Saturday, February 25th, 2017, in Clearwater, FL. As in previous years, the event was held at the Countryside Country Club. We had a fun and interesting program to engage our guests! Our event began with champagne generously donated by Tõnu Toomepuu and a lunch enlivened with raffle drawings led by Marju Dishmey and festive group singing led by exceptional accordionist Kaie Põhi Latterner.

Before lunch, our formal program began with a welcome from the president of the Estonian Society of Central Florida: Ms. Kersti Linask. Honoring the United States, we sang the Star Spangled Banner. Ms. Kaie Põhi Latterner offered the invocation. We then paused for a delicious lunch. After lunch, Ms. Linask then read greetings from the Estonian American National Council (Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendriikides (ERKÜ)). In a special tribute in memoriam, Monika Orumaa Craig and Markus Larsson presented Marie Under’s poem Mälestus ja Tõotus. The singing of the Estonian national anthem concluded the formal remarks in our program.

Then the centerpiece of the program was offered: Eesti rahvatants! At last year’s 98th anniversary celebration, we experienced a surprise visit by the KFES dance group Talutütred, whose folkdance enchanted the audience with their spirited sharing of secrets and gossip (Tühjajutu tants). They were so well received, we decided to plan this year’s program around folkdancing, and we invited “real” folkdancers, two couples from the Estonian dance group Saare Vikat.

Saare Vikat was established in 1971 in New York Eesti Maja. Dancers and directors have come and gone over the years, but its reputation for presenting high quality folk dance performances remains sterling. Saare Vikat has performed in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Sweden. Liisi Vanaselja is its current director. Today’s performers included Ivan Kavoleff, Linda Kangro, Andres Olvet, and Liisi Vanaselja. To our delight they danced Jooksupolka, Reilender, and Meremeeste Valss.

To everyone’s surprise, KFES’s own dance troupe reappeared and under a more appropriate name: Rannapiigad (beach babes). Living nowhere near farms, the group decided this year to eject its former name Talutütred (farm girls) and, though more appropriate to our Gulf of Mexico setting, they rejected the seriously considered moniker Näkineinud (mermaids).


Dancing barefoot as only beachgoers do, Rannapiigad (Marju Dishmey, Reet Cabrera, Anneliis Kuusik, Kersti Linask, Maare Kuuskvere, and Lisa Mets) did their best to present what is considered Estonia’s most difficult folkdance Tuljak; needless to say, there were some comedic moments. Saare Vikat and Rannapiigad joined together for the more gentle Kalamies dance. To conclude the dance program Saare Vikat and Rannapiigad invited members of the audience to dance together the Perekonnavalss. What fun!

To bring the festivities to an end, closing remarks were then given by Lisa A. Mets, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia, St. Petersburg, Florida. Her theme was 99: Looking back and forward.


Ms. Mets thanked the members of Saare Vikat and Kersti Linask and Lisa Mets presented a bouquet of flowers to their director, Ms. Liisi Vanaselja. In this photo, you’ll see Saare Vikat (Ivan Kavoleff, Linda Kangro, Liisi Vanaselja and Andres Olvet with Kersti Linask and Lisa Mets; photo by Erkki Taada.


Ms. Mets also thanked donors who underwrote Saare Vikat’s travel expenses: Leena Aare, Richard and Ann Ashley, Eric and Reet Cabrera, Heikki and Inne Joonsar, Anneliis Kuusik, Jaan and Maare Kuuskvere, Kaie Kaie Põhi Latterner, Kersti Linask, Henn and Norma Jean Rebane, Erkki Taada and Lisa Mets, Jüri and Jae Toomepuu, and Tõnu and Robin Toomepuu. Additional thanks went to Tõnu Toomepuu for his generous contribution of champagne; Reet Cabrera and Anneliis Kuusik for the lovely floral arrangements at each table; Mrs. Urve Põhi, who has become KFES’s Independence Day celebration photographic chronicler; and Evi and Arno Kallas from the Estonian Society of South Florida.

Finally, with resounding applause, everyone thanked Ms. Kaie Põhi Latterner and Ms. Anneliis Kuusik, the leaders who organized our celebration and provided our musical and folkdance energy.

We ended our festivities with a group photo on the balcony. Everyone’s waving at photographer Erkki Taada.


It was a great afternoon. Here’s a sampling of our photos.

If you are in Florida now, please continue to visit this website; we have activities planned in March and April before our summer hiatus. We’ve also begun our planning for EV100!

Tere kaasmaalased/Dear Estonian friends!

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to share this greeting from The Honorable Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Republic of Estonia, on the occasion of Estonia’s 99th anniversary of independence, February 24, 2017. Her greeting is in Estonian, with English subtitles. Please share this with your friends!


Happy Anniversary to the Republic of Estonia!

Lisa A. Mets
Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia,
St. Petersburg, FL