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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

20th Polish festival opens today


Terry Glazer said he sees the 20th annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival, which runs today through Sunday, not so much as a street party but more as a homecoming.

The Lagrange area, better known as the Polish Village, used to be the hub for Polish immigrants in Toledo.

Today, according to 2000 U.S. Census figures, only 15 percent of the people living in the Polish Village claim some type of Polish heritage.

About 11 percent of the Toledo population claims a Polish heritage, compared to 23 percent in Rossford.

Mr. Glazer said the Polish festival, though, is when many Polish return to celebrate their heritage and culture.

“The festival brings people together in the neighborhood,” Mr. Glazer said. “We are known now as the largest street festival in northwest Ohio. Attendance has grown each year, and we've added things to try to accommodate the crowds.”

Mr. Glazer and Aggie Dahar, one of the organizers, said one of the keys to success is that the Polish festival has not strayed from its roots. It has remained a festival that celebrates the Polish culture.

“We've had people who wanted us to bring in different music,” said Ms. Dahar, who works with small businesses at the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce. “We've had requests for rock and roll to be played. We've turned them all down. We wanted this festival to be a celebration of the Polish culture. You can get the other music at other festivals.”

Mr. Glazer said some people have even questioned continuing the festival on Lagrange. He said the growth of the festival has shown that there's no need to do that.

“We've had people who've talked to us about moving the festival, but this is something for the neighborhood,” Mr. Glazer said. “This is a good opportunity to show it off and show it's a good place to live.”

Thirteen students from Toledo's sister city of Poznan, Poland, will work at the festival as part of a community service project and tour.

John Henry Fullen, executive director of Toledo Sister Cities International, helped set up the visit of the Polish high school students, ranging in age from 14 to 18. The Polish festival will be one of several places they will visit in the United States, Mr. Fullen said.

“They attend a private school in Poland that's mostly taught in English, so their headmaster is always looking for opportunities where they can use their English,” he said. “They are staying with host families. Some of the older generation still speak their native language, and it will be good for them to talk with the kids and find out what's going on in their country today.”

Beth Hensley and Steven Jones from Central Catholic High School and Krystle Roop and Krystal Jones from Woodward High will receive the Polish festival scholarships, worth $1,000 each.

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