Helen Kocan would have been be proud of Whiting last weekend. She was the theme for this year's Pierogi Fest and her photo was seen everywhere with clever quotes such as "Pick up your trash."
Helen was the national president of the Zenska Jednota, or First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union of America, which was formed in Whiting in 1899. The organization not only sold inexpensive life insurance to immigrant families, but also provided a social outlet for Slovak ladies, and the annual Pierogi Fest gives the descendants of Slovak ancestry yet another way to celebrate their heritage.
But the best thing about Pierogi Fest each year is that it brings out the creativity in people and I'm seeing it in the younger generation now, which is really great because someday, Pierogi Fest will all be theirs - despite the fact that their own grandmothers probably never owned a babushka.
Lisa Toleikis Miller and her husband, Jason, were in charge of the beer garden this year and added a classy touch when Lisa created a clever listing of the correct wine to go with different pierogi fillings.
Evidently, Merlot is correct with sauerkraut or mushroom, but have some Chardonnay on hand if you're serving spinach pierogies.
The Region Signs folks and family always come up with the most unique entry in the parade. This year, they were dressed as individual sections of the Crazy Kapusta Coaster and rolled through the parade as a moving roller coaster.
The junior class at Whiting High School always serves homemade haluski (cabbage and noodles), which is now a tradition at Pierogi Fest. But this year, the class of 2014 stepped it up by wearing babushkas and serving a particularly clever drink whose logo was a take-off on a popular national chain. And being on top of today's market, they even had Twinkies for sale.
While there are always lines for pierogies, there were also lines of patrons for some new products I hadn't seen before, like chocolate covered bacon.
Of course, I made my daily trek to my favorite booth, which serves maple bacon funnel cakes. If you've never had one, come to Oktoberfest on Oct. 5, because they promised me they'd be back for that event.
But I think the true creativity nod goes to one of our lovely ladies, Patsy Kazragys, the youngest member of the Buscia Brigade, who now has its own cooking show and, once again this year, their own calendar.
Patsy and her husband, Adam, both in their 30's, are tremendous planners. Though nine months pregnant (Patsy said some people thought it was just part of her costume), she didn't miss her chance to prance as a buscia. She made it through the three-day fest in time to give birth to a bouncing buscia baby boy the next day. His name is Joseph and he joins his two adorable older sisters, Morgan and Riley, as members of the wonderful Kazragys clan.
Who knows, maybe this Pierogi Prince will someday grow up to become Whiting's Mr. Pierogi II.