2019 Polish Fest

2019 POLISH FEST

The Largest Celebration of Polish Heritage
in the United States Held in Milwaukee, WI

Not even the chilly weather could deter the Polish Fest enthusiasts from attending the popular showcase of Polish pride taking place this year over the weekend of June 14-16.

2019 POLISH FEST
photo gallery

Following tradition that goes back to 1982, the 2019 Polish Fest was held again in the Henry W. Meyer Festival Park on the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee. The festival became the largest event of this kind in the United States attracting crowds from Wisconsin and Chicago area with lively music, folk dances and colorful costumes, Polish food and beverage favorites, Polish pottery and souvenirs, cooking and craft demonstrations, informative talks and exhibits, and many programs for children. Some of the signature attractions of the event include fireworks, the Polish Fest Pageants and Chopin Youth Piano Competition.

Great entertainment notwithstanding, the festival always provides a venue for spreading knowledge about organizations that serve the needs of people with Polish roots and/or interest in Polish history and culture. As usual, the Polish American Congress – Wisconsin Division distributed informative materials about its activities – including the brochure promoting the Wisconsin Study in Poland program and booklet Do You Know Poland?

Big thanks to the PAC volunteers (see their pictures to the left) who generously shared knowledge of Polish history and our organization: Robert Bialecki, Clare Ann Gaouette, Stan Grajewski, Debbie and Jerry Halkoski, Kate Murawska, Kasia and Jacek Niemczyk, John Pienkos, David Rydzewski, Karen Wieckowski and Krystyna Zuzanski. To see your smiling face in the Polish Fest report next year, sign up for the 2020 Polish Fest roster.

Visitors of the “Polish Organizations” tent could also learn more about the main organizers of the event – the Polish Heritage Alliance and Polish Center of Wisconsin – as well as the Polish National Alliance, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Polonia Sport Club and genealogical societies offering help on the spot to all interested in exploring their Polish ancestry.

Visitors of the “Polish Organizations” tent could also learn more about the main organizers of the event – the Polish Heritage Alliance and Polish Center of Wisconsin – as well as the Polish National Alliance, the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Polonia Sport Club and genealogical societies offering free help on the spot to all interested in exploring their Polish ancestry. Search for Polish roots proved to be very popular given the high attendance at the genealogy stations and a “mini clinic” with Steve Szabados, genealogy columnist for the Polish American Journal, at the (click here for the handouts from his genealogy and immigration presentations).

In contrast to the 2017 Polish Fest accenting the Tadeusz Kościuszko bicentennial, and the 2018 Polish Fest spotlighting the 100th anniversary of Poland’s Independence, the presence of Polish delegation from Lublin Voivodeship at the 2019 opening ceremony switched the gear to now and the future. The light beam was aimed at forging the economic and cultural ties between Polish businesses and higher-learning institutions and their counterparts in Wisconsin and the Chicago area. The need for collaboration was resonating in short speeches given by Lublin Governor Przemysław Czarnek, Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca and other speakers representing Wisconsin legislature, the Polish Consulate in Chicago and several establishments with interests in promoting Polish-American cooperation.

The themes related to Poland’s Independence restored in 1918 still reigned in talks and exhibits made available courtesy of Polanki, the Polish Women’s Cultural Club of Milwaukee. This year, fest participants could view the exhibit “Poland Regained: Polish Posters from the 1890s to the 1930s” (created by the Warsaw Poster Museum) and the bilingual exhibit “Fathers of Independence (Ojcowie Niepodległości)” telling the story of early years of the Second Polish Republic and its main architects: Józef Piłsudski, Ignacy Paderewski, Roman Dmowski, Wincenty Witos, Wojciech Korfanty, and Ignacy Daszyński. This theme was expanded in Piotr Puchalski’s presentation entitled “Remembering 1919 and 1939: Another Look at Poland’s Interwar Diplomacy.”

Saturday, June 15, was a special day for Polish folk dance fans with non-stop performances of Poland’s national and regional dances on the largest stage of the event. The long lineup of dancers in vividly colorful costumes (many hand-made in Poland), included Milwaukee’s own Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble and dance groups from Illinois: Dzianisanie, Lajkonik, Wesoly Lud, Whispers and Wici. The warmest applause, just like last year, went to the dancers of Polish Highlander Ensemble “Tatry” from the Podhale region in Poland.To the applause of large audience, the folk dance marathon culminated in the spectacular Polish Folk Dance Gala hosted by the PFDAA (Polish Folk Dance Association of the Americas).

On Sunday morning, June 16th, the roofed area around the main stage became a gathering place for the Catholic faithful. This year’s Mass was celebrated by the Reverend Michael Hammer (known for the long years of service in the AIDS ministry) from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. The chosen charity was the St. Ann Rest Home, a non-profit nursing home that Dominican Sisters run in Milwaukee and promote (also in Polish) their services in the “Polish Organizations” tent on the festival grounds. This year, the tent hosted also the booth of the magnificent Basilica of St. Josaphat, now the Milwaukee Landmark that was built by Polish immigrants in style reflecting their vision of Polish identity.

While listening to the young pianists competing at the Chopin Youth Piano Competition, it was also time to reflect on the immense effort and dedication of hundreds of volunteers and event sponsors that went into organizing a successful event of this scale. Heartfelt thanks go then to all who made this memorable showcase of Polish spirit and tradition possible.

Text and photos: Irena Frączek
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Monday, June 17th, 2019 Newsletter