7th Annual Cleveland Dyngus Day festival
On Monday, April 17th, the day after Easter, we decided to check out the 7th Annual Cleveland Dyngus Day festival which traditionally takes places in the parking lot at the corner of 58th Street and Detroit Avenue (right next door to the Happy Dog) and the establishments surrounding it. When we arrived at this area around noon, however, we saw that the celebration had been sizably expanded into a street festival which was fine with us because it allowed for more people to move around comfortably and polka artists to have a bigger stage on which to perform. When we arrived, the "Chardon Polka Band" was playing and the attendees were merrily dancing. It was an excellent day for this to take place because the temperature was very moderate meaning it was warm enough for people to wear t-shirts but not so hot that they quickly became exhausted.
As we have written in previous years, Dyngus Day is a Polish tradition which celebrates the "end of the observance of lent and the joy of Easter" as is stated in the Cleveland Dyngus Day program notes. Initially in the European countries of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic young men threw water on attractive young women and twitched them on the legs with thin twigs/switches (sometimes with cooperation of the young women's parents) as a sign of "affection". In fact, if a young woman wasn't properly doused, she was considered to be unattractive. But thankfully over the years the twig twitching has ceased to be and today the young women of Europe (and it's about time) soak the young men with equal vigor often using buckets and water balloons to do so. Accordingly, on this day in Cleveland, there was a vendor selling squirt guns so the women in 2017 were well-armed. It also should be noted that this time the women, not the men, were the ones carrying the twigs.
The first person that we talked to was our friend Mr. Jim Craciun who had been there for a while and said he was "loving it". We will see him again on Tuesday night when he is honored at the Cleveland International Hall of Fame dinner.
Among the other people we met and/or talked to were:
***Ms. Gloria Stoaker, aged 92 and an ardent polka fan who was having a wonderful time being with family, friends, and the music she loves.
***Ms. Kristin Miller who was attending the booth for the "Kosciuszko Foundation" which conducts programs that offer people from the U.S. the opportunity to spend time in Poland teaching English to the participants there.
***Ms. Jessica Harrison from "Rudy's Strudel" in Parma who served us a "savory paczki with mashed potatoes" which was the equivalent of a mashed potato and cheese sandwich and a delicious one at that.
***Mr. Dennis Tyeursai, another ardent polka fan, who is at Cleveland Dyngus Day each year wearing a beautiful red suit outlined in gold spangles.
We also visited the booth for the "Cleveland Polka Hall of Fame" where we encountered three polka notables who were Mr. Tony Petkovsek, Mr. Fred Zwich, and Mr. Mark Habat.
As much as we would have liked to, we could not stay for the Miss Dyngus Day Pageant and the Accordian Parade that was scheduled to take place later in the day but we were there when Father Lucian Stokowski, who came to the U.S. from Poland, from St. John Cantius Church gave the official Dyngus Day blessing. A man of good humor, Father Stokowski told a joke about a Polish immigrant, still struggling with the English language, who came across a can of "polish remover" in a cupboard and thus believed that his United States-born wife might be thinking of eliminating him. It was the manner in which Father Stokowski told the joke that had everyone there uproariously laughing and Mr. Fred Zwich, who was scheduled to perform next, said that he, himself, usually started his act with a joke but he didn't think he could top that one.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC