The Local Community of Otalež: societies create a vibrant pulse

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TThe Local Community of Otalež with about 600 residents is the second largest local community in the Cerkno municipality, which apart from Otalež includes Plužnje, Lazec, Jazne, and Travnik as well. Life in the countryside of Otalež is characterized by hard-working, vigorous, kind, and resourceful people, who mostly drive to work to Cerkno, Idrija, and Spodnja Idrija every day.

The residents know that they need to work together to achieve common goals and transform their needs and wishes into tangible results. In this manner they have been joining forces in volunteer labor drives for decades, with which they have – and probably still will – built waterworks, roads, and retaining walls, and cleaned the surroundings. Such experiences forge tight bonds among people, which are in turn also crucial for the formation of societies. The residents are especially proud of them, since they can use their free time to the benefit of each individual and common goals.

Active in the Local Community of Otalež are: a volunteer firefighting department in Plužnje, a sports club in Otalež, a society for the revival of the countryside in Jazne, a society of traditional musicians called “Old Bellows” in Lazec, and a climbing club called DRIN. There are many young people participating in these societies, which strengthens their sense of belonging to the local environment. The residents know that in the long run it will only be possible to keep the population in the countryside and the rural landscape with young people who decide to stay at home.

Always the first to help

The volunteer firefighting department (VFD) Plužnje, which unites most members with its humane orientation, was established back in 1909.

Andrej Zajc, VFD Plužnje:

»I would like to sincerely thank all the members of VFD Plužnje for being active in the department in their free time. Thanks also go to the VFD in Cerkno, which provides the necessary help and cooperation in purchasing firefighting equipment.«

Firefighters are always the first to come to aid during disasters. The ones in the municipality have already lent a hand in an exemplary number of incidents, from fires in buildings and the meadows, to assisting in car and tractor accidents. They also help remove damage caused by the wind. In February 2014, when ice glaze hit the area very badly, the fire fighters were the ones who removed the fallen trees with superhuman efforts and made sure that the residents got a road connection to the world again.

The department constantly devotes attention to the training of operating members in the department and puts special focus on educating the young. With longstanding dedication and work they have earned a good reputation. The villagers are unanimous that firefighters “rock”.

Stari Meh (Eng. Old Bellows)

The society of traditional musicians called Stari meh Lazec (Eng. the Lazec Old Bellows), which was founded in 2002, has 80 members today. The members of the society host a range of events every year: carnival caroling through the villages from Lazec to Sovodenj, an event with refreshments for girls and women on 8 March, a dance or a concert in the hall in Otalež, the bonfire night in Lazec, the fair in Lazec, guest appearances at events in the area, a chestnut roast, an annual trip, a New Year’s Eve party, occasional workshops for children, and various lectures on a range of subjects.

The main event, the Laški sejem (Eng. Lazec fair), is held in the second half of August, when traditional musicians from the area and elsewhere are the first to present their work. The socializing continues with sports, music, and dancing – last year young people organized a much-noticed obstacle run through the village of Lazec for the first time.

The society is especially happy about the construction of the village center in Lazec, which was built in 2014 with funds from the EU and the Cerkno municipality and with great involvement of the members of the society. The locals point out that the sports field and the log cabin are invaluable for the residents. A public event space for socializing, sports, and play provides exceptional motivation for young people, enriches life for the entire local community, and serves as a positive asset for strengthening social contacts in the countryside.

Through the villages on a bike

The society for the revival of the countryside in Jazne (DOP Jazne) organizes different sports and social events. If nature permits it, they organize a giant slalom or a parallel slalom in February, in March they attend the ski jumping or ski flying competitions in Planica, and at bonfire night on the eve of 1 May they pay their respects to Labor Day and make sure that everyone has a nice time.

The main event of the society is the fair in Jazne. The fair has for years now seen a mountain run to the summit of Bevkov Vrh, also as part of mountain runs in the Primorska region. Organizationally speaking this is a very demanding event, but the society’s members always carry it out excellently with a great measure of determination and hard work.

An important achievement of the society is a 23 km long circular cycle route, which was marked in 2011 at their own initiative with the help of the society of traditional musicians. The circular cycle route goes through all the villages in the Local Community of Otalež.

With their own resources and with hard work of members and other villagers of Jazne, the DOP Jazne society has created a nice event space in the years 2012 – 2014, which is intended for sports and cultural events and for spending one’s free time.

Additional hired rooms, which were also equipped by them, are used for socializing and meetings.

A new way of recreation

The climbing club of Otalež DRIN, which was established a little more than seven years ago, wants to offer the village new activities and, by encouraging socializing and sports activities, convince villagers of all generations that recreational activities are important for leading a healthy life. At the same time as the club was founded, an indoor sport climbing wall was being built, whose main purpose is for the club to stay active in winter months.

The club currently has 20 active members and puts a lot of emphasis on passing climbing knowledge on the young generations, so they have organized a children’s climbing course for several years in a row now. Several times a year, they reach out to other climbing clubs and organize a friendly competition at the artificial climbing wall in Otalež.

Living memories of the Lempa Cup in Otalež

The sports club in Otalež was established decades ago. With a strong football team they had the top results in the Cerkno recreational league in football during their best years.

In winter members of the society participated in skiing competitions in the Cerkno cup. Every winter they also organized a skiing competition in Otalež, where the competitors contended for a wooden water barrel also known as “lempa”. The memories of those active years are pleasant and unforgettable. There is almost not a social event in Otalež without remembering those years during a nice chat and laughter of the locals.

Today the club has about 30 active members. Their main activity is football, where special attention is paid to providing young people with a general athletic education. The football team participates in the Cerkno recreational football league every year and in the winter league in Idrija during the winter. They attend many tournaments in the area and further away. Apart from attending competitions they also hold regular recreational activities and training sessions. These take place in the gym at the Cerkno elementary school in the winter and at the school playground in Otalež in the summer. Since last year they have also been putting the new sports field of the village center in Lazec to good use.

They want a revival of stage performances

In recent decades the driving force of the society’s activities near Otalež was the France Bevk educational society. The France Bevk octet, known to broader audiences, performed successfully in the area and elsewhere for several decades and became a recognizable symbol of the society and the village. The theatre section entertained the audience and made it laugh with their many theatre plays. The village is grateful to the society, which was indispensable at all local events, and at the same time wishes that they would start with their activities again soon.

Janez Pisk, society for the revival of the countryside DOP Jazne:

»I am glad that young members are slowly taking over society leadership and adding new programs to it. The quality of life in the village of Jazne has improved with the society’s activities, as the villagers socialize more, have fun, and spend their free time doing cultural or sports activities. Taking into account the diligence of our members, I think the society has a nice future.«