Thousands of people will attend the Lagrange Street Polish Festival this weekend, but for many the three-day celebration will feel more like a close-knit family gathering.
Every year the event is like a big reunion, bringing together families and friends -- some old, some new -- to bond over ethnic cuisine, live entertainment, contests, crafts, and a chance to learn about and share a slice of history.
"Reunion is a big thing for us," said Linda Detrick-Jaegly, chairman of the festival's planning committee. "[The festival] is really neighborhood centered."
The Lagrange Street Polish Festival kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. and runs until 11 p.m. It continues Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.
Now in its 28th year, the event is organized by United North, the North Toledo neighborhood's community development corporation and is believed to be Toledo's largest street festival, attracting more than 20,000 visitors every July.
Food has always been one of the highlights, including everything from dumplings to kielbasa, and of course pierogi. This year's jubliee will bring several new vendors, including The Baking Brothers of Toledo, who will serve up Polish coffee cakes, pies, and other baked goods.
Treu House of Munch, a beverage distribution company in Northwood, will expand its festival offerings, with two extra beers and several other items new to the festival, Detrick-Jaegly said.
"New this year is a Polish beer called Stawski and Buckeye beer," she said. "We'll have more beers than in the past, as well as lots of other foods and drinks."
IF YOU GO
The Lagrange Street Polish Festival will run from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m. Admission is $4 on Friday and Saturday and $2 Sunday.
A shuttle will transport people from Central Catholic High School to the festival for $1. There is no cost to park at the school. For a full list of activities and entertainment schedules, visit polishfestival.org.
Like past festivals, this year's event will feature a children's area with arts and crafts, face painting, live entertainment, sand art, and a magician. Other activities include carnival rides, caricatures, glass art, and the pierogi eating contest. Contestants have three minutes to consume up to 20 of the stuffed doughy dumplings. The winner will receive a cash prize.
Pierogi not your thing? Don't fret, there will be plenty of other foods on hand, including barbecue and funnel cakes.
Local band, the Polka Zone, will make its festival debut Friday night, followed by Badinov. Saturday's concert lineup features Ted Lange Squeeze Box, The Mixx, Echoes of Poland, and Dynabrass. On Sunday, musical acts include the Polish American Concert Band, Echoes of Poland, Duane Malinowski, and Dynabrass.
The thing Mrs. Detrick-Jaegly is looking forward to most is the high school reunion area.
"It's an area where people can meet up with old classmates," said Mrs. Detrick-Jaegly, who will meet up with about a dozen of her classmates from the former Whitney High School's Class of 1970. "We all grew up in this neighborhood or very nearby."
Guests can browse through old year books that will be on display and sign in to let schoolmates know they're present.
"A lot of people come to the festival to come home and visit," she said. "The area may not be predominantly Polish anymore, but it's still the heritage of this neighborhood. This is home for them."
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at email@example.com or 419-724-6133.