MICHIGAN CITY | The rain didn’t stop the crowds from gathering at the second annual Polish Heritage Festival at Friendship Gardens to enjoy some traditional Polish food, music and dance.
“Even when it was pouring down rain, people sat under their umbrellas or under the tent to wait for the program to begin again because there is such strong Polish pride,” said Mark Kolasa, chairman of the festival committee.
The day began with a Mass on the park grounds at 11 a.m. which was attended by the consul general of the Republic of Poland from Chicago, Paulina Kapuscinska.
“She was really happy to see all of the support we have here in Northwest Indiana and we presented her with a plaque of thanks,” Kolasa said.
Mayor Ron Meer also presented a proclamation that declared Sept. 15, 2013, as Polish Heritage Day prior to the start of the festivities, which may have been a little soggy, but no less celebratory.
Walt Kasprzycki, owner of the Cavalier Inn in Hammond, returned to the event for the second year and — even though he brought twice as much food — he sold out of all of it.
“We had Polish sausage and freshly-smoked Polish sausage; pierogi with potato, cheese, meat, blueberry, kraut and mushroom; homemade sauerkraut, kopitka, which is sweet potato dough with a mixture of buttered onions and bacon; golumbki, or stuffed cabbage; and myzeria, a cucumber salad,” Kasprzycki said.
Carol Lazarek, of Chesterton, hit the dance floor with her 14-year-old daughter, Emily, to shuffle her feet to the polka. As the International Polka Queen in 1984, Lazarek is not new to the dance.
“I learned how to do the polka when I was a little girl. My mom taught me. I just love polka music because it’s such happy music, plus I love coming to this festival for the good food and to see old friends,” Lazarek said.
The traditional dance troupe, Wesoly Lud, provided demonstrations.
Eddie Sienkowski, of North Judson, performs concertina for the E-Z Tones. The festival truly is a family affair full of tradition, he said.
“Five of the six of us have the same last name," he said. "My brothers are Dan and Tom and they’re our horn players, my cousin Wayne is on drums, and my son Matt plays bass and keyboard. My brothers and I have been playing polka music together since 1975. We’ve been doing it ever since we were little kids."