Young Croatian Profiles


 This year, CroatiaFest is honoring siblings Ellie and Gus Schafer as 2023 Featured Young Croatian Award.

            Fourth generation Croatian Americans Gus and Ellie are the children of Sarah and Gavin Schafer who trace their Croatian roots through their grandmother Helen (nee Budinich) Shafer to the Island of Losinj in Croatia’s Northern Adriatic.

            Ellie and Gus were members of the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans from a very early age (Ellie joined at age 3 and Gus at age 4), performing with the group for 15 and 13 years respectively. In their time as Junior Tamburitzans, the duo was able to perform at the Croatian Fraternal Union Festivals in Orlando, Chicago and in Zagreb, as well as the Croatian Folklore Extravaganza in Los Angeles, and many times CroatiaFest . A highlight of their performing career was performing at the International Children’s Festival in Sibenik, and on Croatian National Television’s “Dobro Jutro Hrvatska”.

            During the Covid pandemic, CroatiaFest did exclusively virtual programming, including two shows filmed on the stage of McCaw Hall, in which Ellie and Gus modeled traditional Croatian folklore costumes in the collection of the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans. CroatiaFest is grateful to Ellie and Gus for taking the time to be a part of these historical documentaries which included long hours of filming and adhering to rigorous safety protocols.

            Both Ellie and Gus graduated from Highline High School; Ellie in 2021 and Gus in 2023. While attending Highline, where Ellie played varsity soccer for four years, was a member of the National Honor Society and was Editor in Chief of her Senior Yearbook. She is currently in her third year at Eastern Washington University where she is a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and works on campus at the student PUB.

            “I am so grateful to have been recognized as this year's young Croatian along with my brother, Gus. Being a part of the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans has given me such lifelong memories and has led me closer to my heritage. I would never have been so close to my culture if it wasn’t for the SJTs. I have had so many wonderful experiences and been given so many opportunities that I will always cherish. I am thankful to have learned so much about my Croatian heritage, it means a lot to me. Being the young Croatian of this year's Croatiafest means so much to me especially that it is with my brother who has been an important part of every experience I’ve had in the group and community over the years.”

At Highline, Gus excelled in both varsity baseball and golf. His senior year the baseball team was the league champions, and he was awarded first team best utility player of the league. In his senior year, he participated in the State Golf Tournament. This fall he will be starting his first year of college at Pierce College where he plans to continue to play baseball along with his studies.

            “It is an honor to be named young Croatian of the year with my sister. I’m extremely grateful for the amazing places I’ve traveled to, thanks to the Seattle Junior Tamburitzans. Without this group, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles, Chicago, Florida, and Croatia. Being a part of this group has allowed me to make lifelong friendships and ultimately bring me closer to my heritage. I’m very proud to have been a part of this group because I’ve been introduced to a whole new world of music, dance and food. I’ll never forget the experience of being in Zagreb during the World Cup.”

Congratulations to these two very special and talented young Croatian Americans. 

CroatiaFest Sponsors

Balkan Store
Maxwell Hotel
Mediteranean Inn
Big John's PFI
25th Anniversary
King County 4 Culture
Seattle Office of Arts and Culture
Ancestry Cellars
Croatian National Tourist Office