STORY BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
The party includes polka and pierogi at the annual Polish American Family Festival and Country Fair. The 49th annual event, held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in New Britain Township, features music, games, carnival rides, dancing, crafters, and lots of food.
“There’s a lot to do,” said Master of Ceremonies Teresa Wojcik.
And a lot of people enjoy the entertainment aimed at the whole family — more than 30,000 people attend each year.
“It’s educational, cultural, and a lot of fun,” she said. “There’s something for everyone.”
Wojcik has been attending the festival for most of her life. She’s been part of the organizing staff for about seven years. Her father is Polish-American and her mother is from Poland. She speaks both Polish and English and likes to celebrate her heritage.
“I really connect with my Polish background,” she said. “I love to share it with other people, to share the beauty of the language and the culture.”
Though some might know Pope Paul II and Lech Walesa as being from Poland, there’s so much more to the country and its people, she said.
“I think when you educate people about history and culture, it builds tolerance and understanding,” she said. “And for those who are Polish or who have some Polish background, it’s good for those people to learn about their own identity.”
Part of that identity comes from the music, which will be varied, including polka, waltzes, American standards, regional Polish tunes, and even the Polish American String Band. The Polish identity also is expressed through dance — groups from Canada, Illinois, and New Jersey will be performing. And, of course, there are several well-known traditional Polish culinary delights, including pierogi, kielbasa, placki (potato pancakes), and golumpki (cabbage rolls).
The history of Poland through the centuries will be explored as well. Richard Golazeski is a living history re-enactor with the Banner of Jasna Góra group, which represents a period of time when Poland was one of the largest countries in Europe, he said. Their group portrays both military and civilian aspects of Polish society during the 17th century. They try to make it fun.
“We take the facts very seriously, but that doesn’t mean we can’t present them with a wink and a nod,” he said. “With humor and seriousness we teach a lot about history that people may not have had a chance to see.”
Golazeski thinks that the festival is a great place to learn about your heritage if you’re Polish.
“Having some place where you can go and get in touch with your roots is so important, learning about things in not a formal way [while] having a good time,” he said. “It gives people the idea of where they’re from.”
“It’s a day for people to be proud of their Polish heritage,” she said, “and for those who aren’t Polish to get to learn all about it.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The 49th Annual Polish-American Festival
WHERE: The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, 654 Ferry Road, New Britain Township.
WHEN: Noon to 8 p.m. Aug. 30-Sept. 1 and Sept. 6-7.
ADMISSION: $12 (includes Midway rides, except Extreme Rides)
INFO.: Call (215) 345-0600 or check www.czestochowa.us