It's a pierogi palooza this year at the Lagrange Street Polish Festival in North Toledo. As always, the 28th year of the celebration that kicks off Friday will feature numerous pierogi and Polish food vendors as well as a pierogi eating contest.
"We give contestants 20 pierogis and three minutes to eat as many as possible," festival chairman Linda Detrick-Jaegly said. "Every year there are a couple people who don't need the whole three minutes."
But if your craving for the doughy dumplings doesn't stop there, the festival is hosting its first pierogi tasting contest, Detrick-Jaegly said. A panel of professional tasters will determine which Toledo pierogis are the best of the best.
Still not satisfied? Then make your way down to St. Hedwig's for the twin parishes Saints Hedwig and Adalbert's festival within the festival. Every year the parishes make thousands of homemade pierogis that are guaranteed to sell out.
This year, the Polish chefs behind the food started preparing the dumplings in mid-May. Just last week they reached their goal of 10,000.
"Polish people are noted for cooking like, a dash of flour here, a touch of sugar there, a little of this, a little of that, and just tasting the food until it's just right," said Marge Stefanski, co-chairman of the parishes' festival. "When we were making the pierogis, you didn't see a recipe anywhere. It was just 10 to 15 Polish women cooking and tasting to decide it was right."
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Stefanski and her team also have prepared pigs in a blanket, kielbasa, coffee cakes, cabbage, and plenty of sauerkraut.
Sponsored by United North, which is the merged Langrange and NorthRiver Development Corporations, the festival will feature all Polish bands and a third season of Dancing With the Stars: Polka Edition. Twenty contestants will pair off with professional dancers from the Echoes of Poland dance troupe to stomp and twirl their way to victory.
Paulina Tul-Ortyl, director, choreographer and founder of Echoes of Poland, says the music is the best part of the event.
"I just love all the happy-tune polka," she said.
The Toledo Polish Genealogical Society even gives Polish Toledoans a chance to trace their heritage or learn a few fun facts. No need to worry if you're not Polish, though. There is plenty of food and fun for everyone.
"I love to see the camaraderie," Stefanski said. "It's a wonderful combination of old and new traditions and how it's continuing. I'm expecting a great festival this year."
Before all the fun officially begins, United North will host "Raise the Curtain," a parking lot party at the Ohio Theatre to raise money for the closed facility. Detrick-Jaegly said there will be food, drinks, and music at the event, where United North will unveil its renovation plans for the Ohio Theatre and offer tours of the building.
"We're having a mini Polish festival before the festival," she said.
The headlining band to perform is the Pink Floyd tribute band, the Polka Floyd Show. The group is expected to play three sets of polka-flavored Floyd covers at the theatre parking lot. Also in the lineup are Might Have Been and bellydancer Leyla with band Raq the Casbah.
Admission to "Raise the Curtain" is free although donations are encouraged, Detrick-Jaegly said, and the party will run from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday.
The official Polish Festival opens at 5 p.m. Friday with the entrance located on the corner of Lagrange Street and Central Avenue and closes at midnight. It runs from noon to midnight on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors with a Golden Buckeye Card, and $2 on Sunday. Children 8 years old or younger are free and no one under the age of 18 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.
Contact Ashley Sepanski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6082.