Dyngus Day Celebration in Cleveland
Unlike Easter Sunday which was quite warm, the temperature in Cleveland on Monday, March 28th, was in the low-to-mid 40's and the wind chill factor made it seem considerably colder. Nevertheless, Dyngus Day aficionados gathered at 58th Street and Detroit Avenue (right next door to the Happy Dog) to celebrate its 6th anniversary in the Detroit-Shoreway area of Cleveland.
From Kishka's Polka Tent Stage, Mr. D.J. Kishka, Cleveland's Dyngus Day mastermind, presided over opening ceremonies at 10:30am in high spirits wearing his trademark artificial beard, holding a beer (soon quite a few of the attendees would follow his example) and instructing the "Chardon Polka Band" to play the Polish National Anthem which they did as we stood proudly in respect. Then Mr. Kishka and Ms. Kim Hanko-Dale, who was Ms. Dyngus 2014, set fire to the winter chicken (made of paper or so it seemed) symbolizing that winter was over and spring had begun in spite of the currently chilly weather.
"Stick around and have a great time," said Mr. Kishka, "because that is what we are here to do!"
Then the band started to play the "Beer Barrel Polka" and thus began this day of merriment and the oobservation of Polish traditions in a very fun kind of way.
As the souvenir booklet stated, "Dyngus Day or wet Monday (Polish Smigus-Dingus or lany poniedzialek) is the name for Easter Monday. Historically a Polish tradition, Dyngus Day celebrates the end of the observance of Lent and the joy of Easter. Over the decades, Dyngus Day has become a wonderful holiday to celebrate Polish-American culture, heritage, and traditions. In Cleveland specifically, our goal is not only to make this a Polish Cultural festival; we also want to celebrate our Polka Heritage as wellas the other Eastern European cultures still thriving around the Cleveland area."
We visited the various booths such as the one for the Polka Hall of Fame and resisted the temptation to consume a delicious looking jelly doughnut. We could not, however, say no to a plate of three piping hot cheese and potato pierogies. We listened to some polka for a while before we left to do some errands.
Unfortunately, we were a little longer than anticipated so we didn't get to hear to hear our good friend Mr. Fred Zwich and his International Sound Machine band play. And, we understand Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone stopped by to present a much appreciated Dyngus Day proclamation.
We made it back though in time to watch the annual Ms. Dyngus pageant from a distance. And it was from a distance because the whole area was totally packed with people drinking beer (of course) and enjoying Dyngus dogs (aka hot dogs), pierogies, doughnuts and/or just the high joyous energy of the place.
Across the street, right outside of the Spice restaurant, FM91.1 WRUW radio had set up a table and individuals involved with the "Polka Changed My Life Today" weekly radio show were broadcasting from there. Sometimes they interviewed folks in the crowd including a person who had traveled to Cleveland from Pittsburgh just to attend our Dyngus Day.
Soon Mr. Kishka announced that the winner of the Ms. Dyngus 2016 contest was Ms. Michelle LoBuglio who was a very popular choice judging from the avalanche of applause that she received. As a result, Ms. LoBuglio got to lead the parade which featured marchers in costumes depicting European folk legends, some well-crafted Dyngus Day floats, participants holding up likenesses of the late Mr. Frankie Yankovic known as "the Polka King", and a fire engine.
Afterwards, we walked over to listen to the radio broadcast where a disc jockey was saying that Cleveland was a "very ethnic town and one of the best polka towns around."
Just a few feet away from him, inside of Spice restaurant, the leader of the "Polka Pirates" (who were playing to a full-capacity house) was saying in a tone of voice that indicated that he was very impressed, "This is a Show! This is a Show!"
And for us, Dyngus Day 2016 was indeed that.
By: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.