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8th Annual Dyngus Day Celebrations

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We had been looking forward to Monday, April 2nd, because it was the 8th Annual Dyngus Day in Cleveland where an estimated 40,000 people gathered near the intersection of West 58th Street and Detroit Avenue for a celebration of polka music and the Polish culture largely organized by Mr. Justin Gorski (aka "D.J. Kishka" the famed radio DJ) and his wife, Ms. Laura Ross, and a host of committed volunteers.

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After attending this annual event for the past several years now, we decided that it was time for "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" to get into the act so we purchased some space on the fence surrounding the vending area (the epicenter of all the happenings) and hung our banner in a prominent position. Luckily, we also had a red "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" t-shirt, red tennis shoes, and a white pair of trousers to wear which perfectly fitted the occasion because the national colors of Poland are red and white. We did cheat a bit, however, as we wore several layers of clothing underneath the red t-shirt due to the coldness of the weather.

We have written about what Dyngus Day is before and this year the program notes for the celebration described the occasion quite well as it read:

"Historically, Dyngus Day (or Wet Monday) is a Polish holiday dating back to A.D. 700. The celebration started out as a pagan 'rite of spring' holiday called Smigus-Dingus Day. Smigus was the god of lightning and Dingus was the god of water. Over the decades Dyngus Day has transformed into a celebration marking the end of the observance of Lent and the joy of Easter. In Cleveland specifically, our goal is to celebrate our Polka Heritage as well as all of the Eastern European cultures still thriving in and around the Cleveland area today. Some of the present day traditions of Dyngus Day include splashing friends and family with water and chasing loved ones around with pussywillow branches to flirt..."

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Some of the highlights of Cleveland Dyngus Day 2018 included:

****DJ Kishna's uproarious turn as the emcee of the day. Although he was sometimes a bit irreverent, he succeeded in keeping us in stitches. 

****Mr. Doug Kusak's reading of his poem, "Twas the Day Before Dyngus" which strikingly rhythmed with "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Mr. Kusak's poem was superb comedic satire as he poked fun at polka as well as Polish culture and traditions. He got to read it twice during the day and it is a safe bet that: A) he will be called back to read it again next year B) his poem will gain a huge following and will someday be regarded as at least a cult classic.

****The performances of such artists as the "Chardon Polka Band" and the "Don Wojtila Band" that had the huge crowd literally dancing in the streets.

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****The lighting of the feathers of the ceremonial spring rooster (don't worry it was fake) to usher in spring; this is something virtually everyone wanted to see happen since the temperature never left the mid-thirties for most of the day. As appropriate as our red tennis shoes might has been for a Polish holiday, our feet were soon quite chilled.

****Just as he had last year, Father Lucian Stokowski from St. John Cantius Church gave the Dyngus Day blessing. Father Stokowski showed his cheerful, charming side as he sang a chorus of Bobby Vinton's "My Melody of Love" which he dedicated to all of the lovely ladies who were present. He also urged us all to have a good time but if we drank a considerable amount of beer (as a lot of people were doing), Father Stokowski wisely asked us to not attempt to drive home.

****A genuine Polish wedding took place between two people named Kathleen and David and our good friend, Cleveland Housing Court Judge Ronald O'Leary conducted the ceremony. We learned that they knew each other in high school but it took many years before they became a couple; nevertheless, they seemed so happy to be together that we will venture to say that their union was worth the wait.

****The annual Miss Dyngus Day Contest which pitted five worthy contestants against in other as they mostly clowned their way through dancing, trivia, and perogie eating matches.  The winner was Ms. Marlene Thompson, a delightful young woman who had competed in the contest on two other occasions before she finally won. Let us also add, though, that we also  impressed by a young woman named Malgorzata (Margaret in in English) who recently immigrated to the United States from Poland where she worked as an ESL teacher. We look forward to seeing her compete for this prize again next year.

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****Let us make note that the perogies served by "Cleveland Vegan" were among the best that we have ever eaten. We would have consumed even more but they proved to be so popular that there was a consistently long line.

In the course of the ceremonies, Mr. Joe Valencic of the "Polka Hall of Fame" spoke for a moment and said that Polish immigrants brought polka music to Cleveland in 1845. As was the case with many immigrant groups, their music and song helped them get through their first years in a strange land and it keeps them together to this day.  

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC