All things Polish come together for day-long festival

With a year of experience, organizers for Polish Day 2010 have tweaked what proved to be a winning formula.

Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer of Polish Youngstown said, ''We were totally caught off guard with the attendance. We never expected such a fabulous crowd.''

The inaugural event had a paid attendance of 1,200 (not including children and comped tickets), which made for some long lines at St. Anne's Church, especially for the ethnic foods.

Heschmeyer said crowds were patient last year, but they've made several changes to speed up service. They've added a second food line as well as creating two separate lines for takeout orders. Guests who just want to pick up food without paying admission to the festival will be able to use a special takeout line.

Pierogis, potato pancakes, kielbasa and other Polish favorites that people expect will return, but the event also will feature some more rare delicacies like sekasza, a pastry that Heschmeyer discovered on a visit to Poland. It's baked on a spit like a rotisserie chicken with dough slowly added over a six-hour period.

''It's very time consuming,'' she said. ''There are only two bakeries (in the United States) that make it.''

Organizers ordered a huge sekasza that will be one of the silent auction items as well as several one-pound pastries that will be available for sale.

Other changes include moving the ethnic goods vendors outdoors to a large tent that will give shoppers more room to browse and allow for more vendors this year.

The entertainment lineup also has changed, offering more performances by groups like the Krakowiaki Polish Folk Circle that audiences can watch as well as polka bands that will provide dance music.

''What we found last year, and this has to do with the population and the demographics of the area, is that people love this stuff, but they can't whip around the floor to a polka like they used to,'' Heschmeyer said. ''They do one (dance), and then they want to sit down and be entertained.''

Programs also are planned to emphasize different aspects of Polish culture from genealogy workshops to language workshops to programs on Polish pottery.

''We really try to hit all the facets of what it means to be Polish,'' she said. ''If you're not a polka fan, that doesn't mean mean you're not a Polish food fan. And maybe you're not a food fan. Maybe you're more health-conscious, but then maybe you'd love to learn more about your culture.''


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