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At NJ Polish Heritage Festival
We did it! We made it! The 41st Polish Heritage Festival was a success! Sunday, June 9, 2013 was a glorious sunny day at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey after several days of horrible rain. The parking lots were filled to capacity, including the overflow lots. We can safely say that we were visited by thousands of people, both return visitors from previous years, and new friends promising to come back.
The stage was set up on the Main Plaza as usual. The day began at 10:30 am with a Mass offered by Rev. Miroslaw Krol from the parish of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus in Linden, NJ. This set the stage for the entire day, so to speak, with the beautiful singing of the accompanying choir guided by Mr. Stanislaw Kochanowicz. And we can’t forget our Harcerze, who made a very special appearance at our Festival to help us before going off to their own closing ceremonies for their scouting season. Thank you!
The official program began at 12 Noon, opening with the swashbuckling saber demonstration of the Banner of Jasna Gora, taking the audience back in history. After the opening speeches, which were presented by Ms. Isabella Szutkowski and Mrs. Dorothy Sowchuk, the program was professionally hosted by two lovely MCs with media experience: our returning MC, Ms. Aleksandra Slabisz (Nowy Dziennik) and our new MC for this year, Ms. Monika Galik (Radio Rampa).
It was a very full program this year. We had a smooth entry with the melodious singing of Ms. Ewa Lewandowska and Ms. Joanna Mieleszko, the energy building with Joseph Palka’s Dance Studio’s Ballroom and Latin dancing demonstration, and then really taking off with high energy as the Polish American Folk Dance Company took us on a whirlwind tour of dance through the various regions of Poland. We were also entertained by a unique rendition of popular songs presented to us in the Kabaret Maryla Forever, and then we had the audience dancing on their feet to Dancing Queen among other songs as performed by the Abba Girlz.
This led us to the most important moment of the day for our students – the presenting of the extremely well deserved scholarships. This achievement warrants a separate in-depth article – look for it in the Post Eagle next week. The accomplishments of these students, their drive and resilience, really needs to be commended and called out separately. To finish the main program, we were pleased to be able to host Zespol DYM, a wonderful rock band that brought with it its own following! We just wish that we could have offered them more stage time. Our schedule was that packed. We even had guest appearances by the Grand Marshal of this year’s Pulaski Day parade, Mr. Michael Kulawik, and by the singer from The Voice of Poland competition, Magdalena Baldych.
But we can’t forget everything else that was going on that day. On the lower stage we crowned Mala Miss and her court; we danced to the wonderful music of the Chet Kayer band; we saw an amazing fencing demonstration by Mr. Mlynek’s fencing team where many Olympic athletes were schooled; we listened to the historical lectures by Prof. Pawel Styrna and others in the Polish American Congress tent; we traveled back in time in the Cultural tent to learn about Janusz Korczak and his fight for children’s rights, and saw the beautiful pictures of children taken by children – they were truly breathtaking.
The kids also had plenty to do between the soccer tournament and the children’s rides (generously sponsored by the United Poles Federal Credit Union) … a few minutes of peace for the parents! Ah yes, the dads (and moms too) had the opportunity to see some of the coolest cars ever in the antique car show, one of the largest in its 17th year, hosted by Mr. Chris Koltun. And to make sure that entertainment was everywhere, there was yet another band by the car show!
Our vendor tents were packed with merchandise and shoppers – we actually had to turn vendors away due to lack of space. Our walkway was also filled with media information tents (thank you to our advertisers for working with us!). And we also had a special exhibit from AT&T Digital Life showcasing their new home security product, really bringing the Festival into the new century. And we can’t forget the food vendors – yummy. No one could complain that they were hungry. Of course we had Polish food but we also supported cultural diversity with Greek Food, Italian Food, American Food, Ice Cream; I can’t even think of everything – so let’s say we had lots!
And all of this could not be possible without the support of the Garden State Arts Foundation, our sponsors, the media and everybody else who volunteered their time to bring this together. I hope we have not missed anyone – thank you all!
So what do you think? Sounds good? Sounds like fun? Want to experience it again? Well, mark your calendars for next summer! We are raring to go! Number 42, here we come!
– Isabella Szutkowski - Photos submitted by Isabella Szutkowski