Polish-Americans revel in Dyngus Day

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2013 at 12:00 am

Polka and ‘pigs in the blanket’ prove favorites

Dyngus Day Queen

Photo by Tom Rivers – Baillie Oberther, 16, of Medina is crowned queen of Dyngus Day on Monday during a celebration at Sacred Heart Club. Bonnie Boyd, last year’s queen, passes on the crown.

MEDINA – They danced to the polka, delighted in “pigs in the blanket,” and even crowned a king and queen.

About 200 people celebrated Dyngus Day on Monday at the Sacred Heart Club in Medina. Before they danced to Brass Magic, a polka band from Rochester, the crowd took in Polish food staples, such as sweet and sour cabbage, scallop potatoes, smoked Polish sausage, pierogis and “pigs in the blanket” – rolled cabbage with pork.

The latter is State Sen. George Maziarz’s favorite. He has loved it since he was a kid.
“My grandma made them and I’d eat half a dozen in one sitting,” Maziarz said at the Sacred Heart Club.

He has been coming to Medina’s Dyngus Day celebration for 18 years. Maziarz spends much of the post-lent Monday at Polish celebrations in his district. There are several of the events in Niagara County earlier in the day before he joins the Medina crowd.

“It preserves people’s heritage,” he said about Dyngus Day. “It’s good for the young kids.”

Dyngus Day Polka Band

Photo by Tom Rivers – Brass Magic, a polka band from Rochester, entertains during a Dyngus Day celebration on Monday.

The day has been growing in popularity in Western New York in recent years. Buffalo hosts a big Dyngus Day party with a parade and 25 polka bands. That popularity spreads all the way to Medina and Orleans County.

“It keeps getting bigger,” said Dee Lucas, one of the coordinators of the event in Medina. “We just love doing it.”

Polish immigrants about a century ago started their own Catholic churches in Medina and Albion. Both have closed in recent years. The Polish-American congregation at the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Albion has joined the Dyngus celebration at Sacred Heart, helping the crowd size to grow.

Laurianne Pruski of Albion said Sacred Heart has been welcoming to the Albionites. She wore a red “Dyngus Day Buffalo” shirt with a white Polish eagle symbol on front.
She looks forward to the giant spread of Polish food every year. The cooks all prepare the food from scratch.

She said younger adults are enthused about the annual event. Many even join in polka dances.

“It sets a mark for the younger generation to carry on the traditions,” she said.

Alissa Bruce wants to do her part. Her grandfather was Polish and celebrated Dyngus Day. Alissa brought her 2-year-old daughter Elaina to Monday’s party. She delighted the crowd with her energetic dances with her cousin, 4-year-old Aidan Oberther.

Dyngus Day Dancers

Photo by Tom Rivers – Aidan Oberther, 4, dances with his cousin Elaina Bruce, 2, while a polka band plays at Sacred Heart Club.

“This is awesome,” Bruce said while the polka band played. “It’s great they keep it going.”

The event included the crowning of a king and queen. Both are active volunteers at the Sacred Heart Club.

New king John Weaver, 41, “never complains” when he is asked to help with dinners and other club events, said Lucas, one of the Dyngus coordinators.

The new queen, 16-year-old Baillie Oberther, helps prepare and serve fish fry dinners and other meals at the club. She said she doesn’t want to miss a Dyngus Day party.

“It’s a family tradition,” she said. “We all love the dancing, the food and the heritage.”