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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2010

Polka, pierogi, and more

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Amy Koles (cq), puts up flags and other goodies in the Polish Pride booth before the opening of last year's Lagrange Street Polish Festival. Amy Koles (cq), puts up flags and other goodies in the Polish Pride booth before the opening of last year's Lagrange Street Polish Festival.
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Your shot at stardom is only days away.

It will be there for the taking at 5 p.m. Sunday, in the big tent on Lagrange Street in North Toledo, where "Dancing With the Stars: Polka Edition," takes place as part of this weekend's 27th annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival. Even if you've got two left feet and not a hint of Poland in your heritage, you just might be able to capture one of the contest's cash prizes.

"It's not too hard," according to Paulina Ortyl, director of the professional dance troupe Echoes of Poland, which also will perform during the festival.

The pros will be matched randomly with contestants, who must register at the information booth by 4 p.m. Sunday. There's no entry fee.

The pairs will have an hour to practice before the competition begins.

"We teach them one of the Polish folk dances," Ortyl said. Contestants are judged on timing, teamwork, technique, presentation, energy level, and music interpretation.

Move to the bouncy tunes and the smiles will come naturally, even if the footwork does not. "The music is happy," Ortyl said.

There's a lot of happiness to go around at this festival, where old friends, classmates, neighbors, and relatives reconnect.

It's the only Polish festival in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, she noted. Attractive to the region's large Polish population as well as to the general public who come back year after year, it has become the area's largest street festival and the second-largest ethnic festival. "We're a close second" to the German-American Festival, Detrick-Jaegly said. Last year's attendance was just shy of 25,000.

A high school reunion area will be set up again for graduates of neighborhood schools. It will be open tomorrow and Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m.

Also back for another year is the pierogi-eating contest at 6 p.m. Saturday, crafts and food vendors, the Saints Adalbert and Hedwig Parish Festival with homemade Polish goodies, Polish and American beers, and polka bands.

"The music at our festival is all Polish," Detrick-Jaegly said. "We only take Polish bands because we try to keep the ethnic flavor."

The festival is sponsored by United North, which was created by the merger of the Lagrange and NorthRiver Development Corporations. Profits are reinvested in the neighborhood for projects such as business district enhancements, a home-improvement program, and student scholarships.

The 27th annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival runs tomorrow from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. on Lagrange between Central Avenue and Mettler Street. Admission is $4 for adults tomorrow and Saturday, $2 on Sunday; $2 for seniors with a Golden Buckeye card, and free for children 8 and younger. No one under 18 will be admitted without a parent or guardian. Free parking is available at Central Catholic High School, 2550 Cherry St., with shuttle service to the festival for $1 round-trip for adults and free for children. Information: 419-255-8406 or polishfestival.org.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6126.



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