WHITING | The city's annual three-day homage to the humble, delicious pierogi and all things ethnic including babushkas, has made the top 10 list of bizarre festivities compiled by global travel website TripAdvisor.
In the recently released list, Pierogi Fest, which runs July 26 to 28, is ranked among a celebrated chicken show in Nebraska and a Minnesota festival whose centerpiece is a cat-video contest.
Now in its 19th year, the Whiting festival celebrates — and pokes fun at — the region's cultural heritage and delicious home-cooked food.
In lauding Pierogi Fest's qualifications that certify it as "wacky," TripAdvisor said, "The festivities begin with the International Polka Parade featuring the Twirling Babushka Brigade, while festival emcee Mr. Pierogi, backed by his Pieroguettes, belt out classics during the annual SongFest."
Pierogi Fest draws about 275,000 people, said Chamber of Commerce President and Festival Chairman Tom Dabertin.
Dabertin said that since the festival's beginning in 1994, Oprah Winfrey has named it one of her top seven favorite summer things, and it has been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel and CNN, and has won The Times' Best of the Region five years in a row.
CBS and FOX will broadcast live at the upcoming festival. In the past, the event also has been broadcast on TV stations in China, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Australia and many other countries.
"We have fun with being light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek," Dabertin said. "That's the secret to our success."
Pierogi fest has 77 food vendors, 100 arts and crafts booths, 20 specialty vendors and 50 parade displays.
"The Taste of Chicago promotes itself as being the largest food fest on the planet — and it has 52 vendors," Dabertin said. "I guess that means we're the largest food fest in the Milky Way."