WHITING | Quirky, whimsical, outrageous and just plain fun -- that's what Friday's 18th annual Pierogi Fest Parade was all about.
The irreverently humorous salute to Northwest Indiana's Eastern European heritage draws more participants and spectators every year, said Pierogi Fest Chairman Tom Dabertin, who was decked out in a coconut bra, grass skirt, leis and a blowsy blonde wig.
Martha and Valarie Valadez, of Chicago, parked their camp chairs at the corner of 119th Street and Davis Avenue, where the parade started.
"We've heard about this parade for years and said this year, ‘We're going to go,'" Martha Valadez said as she watched Mr. Pierogi and Miss Paczki greet spectators. "What we've seen so far is really interesting. We have a ringside seat."
Miss Paczki -- aka Emily Gazda, of Whiting -- was one of three generations participating in the parade. Her grandmother, Carol Jacobson, served as Pierogi Queen and rode on a float dressed as "Sarah Palinski," complete with her binoculars looking for Russia along the parade route.
This lampooning of a major news story is a perennial favorite. Other returning crowd-pleasers included the Babushka Brigade.
Dru Revis, of Hammond, showed off her official Babushka Brigade "uniform" -- a housecoat, apron, nylon stockings rolled down at the ankles, curlers, a babushka (head scarf) and bright red lipstick. Some brigade members sported hairnets in place of babushkas.
A group of nine girls practiced dancing and singing for six weeks prior to the girls' stint as the Pierogettes. Attired in dresses reminiscent of traditional Polish costumes, the 9- to 16-year-olds each represented a filling found in the little dumplings so beloved in Eastern Europe and Northwest Indiana.
"I love spoofing real-life songs and dressing up in these costumes," said Maggie Dominiak, 12, of Whiting, who portrayed Miss Potato.
Dogs also came dressed for the occasion as the World Famous Pierogi Pups. Parade veterans 6-year-old Rex, aka "Stash," and 12-year-old Betty, aka "Sofie," rode in style in a convertible with babushkas firmly tied around their heads. Beagles Bourbon and Roxie trailed along on leashes, having traveled from Bloomington, Ind., to participate.
Another pooch, Lexi, a Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, sat in the lap of owner Kathy Jorkon on the porch of their Davis Avenue home, eyeing the spectacle.
"We love sitting here watching the people in the parade," Jorkon said. "It's better than the Fourth of July parade. People are so excited about it. And it gets bigger and better every year."