By Matthew Reitz
The 10th annual Fulton Polish Festival will kick off at noon on Sept. 19 at the Fulton Polish Home in celebration of the culture’s music, food, dancing and more.
Event organizer John Kruk said in addition to “keeping our Polish heritage alive,” it also helps bring money into the Polish Home. Kruk said the Polish Home is important to the entire Fulton community because there aren’t many other venues for the city’s residents to host large events.
The building, constructed in 1949, is due for renovations that include electrical work, a new furnace and new flooring, Kruk said. All proceeds from this year’s festival will all go toward the Polish Home Building Fund, he said. In the past the proceeds have also contributed to a scholarship fund, but Kruk described that fund as “flush” and said this year’s proceeds would be better used on repairs.
The family-friendly event is open to the public and admission is free. The event is highlighted by a wide range of Polish food and drink inside, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers outside—all reasonably priced, according to Kruk. The Polish selections will include golabki (a type of stuffed cabbage), kapusta (a cabbage stew with meat), pierogies (a potato-stuffed dumpling), kielbasa from the Pulaski Meat Market in Utica, and Polish beer. Kruk said the golabki is especially popular, with almost 900 of them sold last year.
“There will be Polish dancers, kielbasa sandwiches—a little bit of everything,” Kruk said. “The place has been packed the last few years.”
The Concertina All-Stars, an eight-piece polka band from Buffalo, will headline the entertainment, which also includes Jasiu Klocek performing with his accordion. The Concertina All-Stars have “a unique sound,” Kruk said. Much of that sound can be attributed to an unorthodox lineup that includes three concertinas, which Kruk described as “small accordions.” Those who attend the event can sit down and have a Polish dinner while listening to Polish music, and “even dance a little” if they want, Kruk said.
Now celebrating a full decade, Kruk took some time to reflect on how the festival came to be and some of the key players in its continued success. He said years ago his father told him what a great venue the Polish Home would be for a festival, and knowing that the organization—which has been around for over 100 years—was looking to “raise money for scholarships and to keep the building going,” Kruk and others launched the first festival.
“When we started we didn’t really know how to do this,” Kruk said. He said it takes “a lot of man power” to put on the festival, and credited Dora Roik, Bob Vayner, Bob Pietrucha, Marysia and Ray Czachor, Dave Morrell, Vinnie Valelunga, and others as being instrumental in its development and success. After planning throughout the year, many of the organizers start preparing the Polish foods as early as the Tuesday before the event, when they begin coring and cooking the cabbage that becomes golabki and kapusta.
The event will run from noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 19, with entertainment beginning at 2 p.m.