Polish Day #2 (8/27/2009)

By ANDY GRAY

Tribune Chronicle

The Mahoning Valley's Polish community now has an ethnic festival to call its own.

Polish Day 2009 this Sunday is designed as a celebration of that country's food and culture.

Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, director of Polish Youngstown, said there have been individual events and programs that spotlighted different aspects, ''But we never had that one thing to encompass all of it.''

Many Polish-Americans don't seem to identify with their ethnic heritage the way other nationalities do. Heschmeyer said she's surprised how often someone will say to her, '''Oh, my grandfather was Polish,' as if that meant they weren't. This gives them the ability to identify with their Polish roots that they might have lost when their grandparents died.''

Organizers decided there was an audience for a festival when the Krakowiaki Polish Circle folk dance troupe planned a small event last year.

''We were expecting maybe a hundred people, kind of a friends and family thing, and 300 showed up,'' Heschmeyer said.

The group picked an odd location for its inaugural event - St. Anne's Church in Youngstown

''People keep asking, what are the Pollacks doing at the Ukrainian Church? They have the space, they have the parking, the kitchen and they have a fabulously cooperative priest,'' she said.

That kitchen is particularly important, because like most festivals, one of the main draws of the event is food.

A Polish food buffet will serve pierogies, haluski, potato pancakes and other delicacies while a Polish bakery and deli will offer homemade paczki donuts, kielbasa and kieszka. Polish beers and vodkas also will be available.

''A lot of this is stuff you can't get in this area because we don't have a deli that caters to the Polish community,'' Heschmeyer said. ''You can't get Polish beer in Youngstown.''

In addition to the food, vendors will be selling Polish pottery, amber jewelry, wooden eggs, folk and iconic art.

The festival will open with polka Mass at 11:30 a.m. with Father Joe Rudjak presiding. Krakowiaki Polish Circle and Syrena will do folk dance performances and polka bands will perform. Amateur accordion players are encouraged to drag their button boxes out of the closet and participate in workshops and jam sessions during the day.

Workshops will be offered on Polish paper cutting, egg decorating, genealogy and travel, and hands-on children's activities are planned throughout the afternoon.

Polish Day 2009 runs from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Anne's Church, 3055 S. Raccoon Road. Admission is $5. For more information, call 330-646-4082.

 
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