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Chris Yantek of Cincinnati crafts animals from balloons Chris Yantek of Cincinnati crafts animals from balloons from his vantage point on stilts. Crowds gathered along Lagrange Street  Friday for the annual celebration that runs through Sunday.
Chris Yantek of Cincinnati crafts animals from balloons from his vantage point on stilts. Crowds gathered along Lagrange Street Friday for the annual celebration that runs through Sunday.
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Published: Friday, 7/13/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Lagrange Street fest a homecoming

BY SOPHIE BROACH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The scent of sizzling pierogi and kielbasa filled the air Friday evening as vendors prepared for the 29th annual Lagrange Street Polish Festival.

"It's a coming-home weekend. It's just a nice feeling to come down here and smell all the Polish food. It makes us sick by Sunday but we love it," said Nancy Sobecki, a festival volunteer.

This year's event features 15 food booths.

Photo gallery: Lagrange Street Polish Festival

"There's no lack of Polish food here, but we have some other things, too," said Terry Glazer, chief executive officer of United North, which sponsors the festival.

Toledoans Carol Zomkowski and Daniel Wozniak show off their polka dance steps. They were dancing to the band Badinov Friday in the dance tent near Czelusta Park on Lagrange Street. Toledoans Carol Zomkowski and Daniel Wozniak show off their polka dance steps. They were dancing to the band Badinov Friday in the dance tent near Czelusta Park on Lagrange Street.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Festival organizers estimate the roughly 20,000 festival-goers last year consumed 30,000 pierogis, one ton of kielbasa, and 300 kegs of beer.

Pierogi fanatics can satisfy their craving for the doughy dumplings at the pierogi-eating contest at 6 p.m. today. Those who devour the most in three minutes will win cash prizes.

Also on the menu for this weekend is the "Prince of Pierogi" contest, where vendors vie to win the honor of having created the tastiest pierogi at the festival.

"On Sunday we have our version of dancing with the stars. We randomly pair up polka dancing amateurs with professionals from the Echoes of Poland dance troupe," said Linda Detrick-Jaegly, the economic development and marketing manager of United North.

The reunion tent will be open, allowing alumni from Central Catholic, Woodward, Scott, and the former Macomber-Whitney Vocational high schools to peruse old yearbooks.

"People come in and browse and reminisce," said Ms. Sobecki. "Sometimes someone will wander in, and we'll stare at each other for a bit," then both realize they overlapped at Woodward, she said.

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.

1 p.m: Children's Area opens; arts & crafts, food vendors open for business; live entertainment starts in the Big Tent.

4 p.m: St. Hedwig Catholic Church annual Polish Mass.

6 p.m: Pierogi-eating contest in the Big Tent (must register at Information Booth).

Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.

1 p.m: Children's Area opens; arts & crafts, food vendors open for business; live entertainment starts in the Big Tent.

5 p.m: Dancing with the Stars/Polka Edition (must register at Information Booth).

The oldest yearbooks in the tent date to the 1930s, and many are filled with sentimental notes addressed to their former owners. Visitors flip through the pages of black-and-white photos of smiling students and admire the covers etched with different images — a pirate, a grizzly bear, a castle, a girl in a floor-length dress.

"People get excited when they find their own yearbooks," said Ms. Sobecki, adding they often try to hide embarrassing photos from their children and spouses.

In keeping with the ancient rivalry between Woodward and Central high schools, she keeps track of how many alumni from each school sign in at the tent.

Most of those who grew up in the area have dispersed across the city and country since graduating, but many return to their old community for the festival, some from as far away as Florida.

"The festival just has a nice neighborhood feel. You can walk down the street with a beer in one hand and a pierogi in the other," said Mr. Glazer.

The festival's location also allows people to see the improvements the annual event has helped bring about.

"The thing that sets this festival apart is that every penny we make goes back into the neighborhood," said Ms. Detrick-Jaegly. This year, United North will give out a $3,000 scholarship to a high school senior and swell the funds of the "curb appeal" project for sprucing up the exteriors of homes and businesses near Lagrange.

Contact Sophie Broach at: sbroach@theblade.com or 419-724-6210.



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