Day 29: Polish Festival

A few years go, my husband and I were invited to my brother’s girlfriend’s mother’s birthday party in Clarkston on the east side of the state. We all affectionately call her Mama (even my own mother calls her this); where my family is concerned, it’s easier to call her Mama than by her actual name, which is Polish and can be tricky for some people to pronouce.

The birthday party was done in extreme Polish fashion, which is something stupid a boring American ethnic-mutt like me would say. To Mama and her group of friends, the way they celebrate is the normal way to celebrate. But to me, a boring American ethnic-mutt, it was quite a culture shock. All of Mama’s guests spoke Polish. Most of them spoke Polish to each other. There was a lot of vodka. There was a lot of food. And there was a guitarist and dancing, and everyone sang songs in Polish. It was a great party, but I was definitely on the outside, watching more than participating.

As the years went on, I grew much more familiar with Polish culture. By the time my brother and his girlfriend got married, I could sing a majority of the words to “Sto Lat,” I knew what was in the Polish food I ate (spoiler alert: it’s all delicious), and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when someone grabbed my hand and brought me into a dancing circle.

I am so lucky that I get to experience the Polish culture on a regular basis. It’s nice to now be on the inside of this warm, fun, and friendly group of people.

So when it was time for the annual Polish Festival downtown, how could we miss it?

The weather this weekend was pretty gloomy. It was cloudy and drizzly a majority of the time. But lucky for us, the rain cleared out in the afternoon, so we went downtown for lunch.

We got a smorgasboard of delicious Polish treats, courtesy of [Polish Girl Catering]( The kielbasa topped with kapusta (warm sauerkraut) was the perfect comfort food on a dreary afternoon. The pierogi and the golumpki (cabbage roll) were satisfyingly filling. We washed it all down with Warka beer as we tapped our feet to the music of a nearby Polish band.


The singer called out to the audience to see if anyone there was named Barbara, and there was a lady who raised her hand. So the band began to play “Barbara Polka,” and she got up with who I assume was her husband and danced along to “her” song while we all clapped to the beat.


With one last “Na zdrowie,” we finished our beer and walked away from the festival. The harmonic wheeze of the accordian followed us all the way to our car.