Biloxi’s Croatian-American Cultural Center busy preparing for Croatian president’s visit

Things are busy at the East Biloxi lodge. From landscaping the grounds to prepping 240 racks of ribs, their to-do list is off the charts.
Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 10:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2023 at 10:44 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - When Croatian President Zoran Milanovic arrives in Biloxi Friday, the visit will make history. It will be the first time a foreign president has visited the coast.

Biloxi’s Croatian-American Cultural Center, known to many as the Slavonian Lodge, will roll out a warm welcome to President Milanovic. But what’s really amazing is this same group of people are also preparing for one of their biggest events of the year: The 48th annual Slavic Invitational Golf Tournament happening Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Things are busy at the East Biloxi lodge. From landscaping the grounds to prepping 240 racks of ribs, their to-do list is off the charts. Michael Kovacevich is the Slavonian Lodge’s Events Director.

“Well, as far as the tournament, everyone has been doing the same thing for the last 40 years. Everyone knows what they have to do and it kind of falls into place,” he said. “It’s a lot of cooking and then on top of all that we’ve got the president coming into the building. It’s once in a lifetime, so you’ve got to rearrange to make it work.”

Kovacevich believes it’s important they give people an authentic introduction to Biloxi-style cuisine.

“We want our cooking because we flavor the food and it’s cooked a certain way. We want it to be our cooking, so they get a taste of the lodge. The way they cook it, and the flavorings are a little different than most people would do,” Kovacevich said proudly.

Although the city is swamped getting ready for the massive golf tournament, Biloxi Mayor Fofo Gilich said they simply couldn’t turn down the Croation president’s request to visit.

“We can’t say no, and we didn’t say no,” Mayor Gilich said. “We’re very excited about two actual receptions: one here at this lodge and then one at City Hall where we’ve got the governor and 11 other folks that will be in attendance. A United States senator and all the political folks that care about Biloxi.”

Drivers in Biloxi should expect possible traffic delays during the Croatian president’s Friday visit.

During his time in America, President Milanovic will also visit Bell Chasse, Louisiana for the grand opening of a new Croatian Lodge there.

A little history about the Slavonian Lodge from the City of Biloxi: “The lodge was founded in 1913 by the Croatian-speaking Slavs, who emigrated from the turmoil of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and found a place in Biloxi’s seafood industry. They have called themselves Austrians, Yugoslavs, and Croatians, depending upon the political developments in their homeland. They began migrating from Louisiana to Biloxi around the turn of the 20th century. The benevolent association was formed for the promotion of the preservation of the heritage and culture of the Croatian people in Biloxi.”

Learn more about the Slavonian Lodge and other Biloxi historical landmarks at

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