Polish festival draws hundreds to Tappan

Krzysztof Czuj, of West Milford, N.J., left, shows

Krzysztof Czuj, of West Milford, N.J., left, shows off his collection of World War II Polish military weapons and apparel at Sunday's Polish Festival in Tappan. (May 27, 2012) (Credit: Christian Wade)

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They munched on pierogies, drank Polish beer, danced, sang and celebrated, Eastern European style.

Hundreds from across the tristate area attended the Polish Festival on Sunday at the German Masonic Park in Tappan, a daylong celebration highlighting all things Polish -- food, music, language, customs and culture.

Katatrayzya Lagodzka, who organized the event with her Russian-born husband, Jon Ginsberg, said the event has grown from a celebration for a new Polish-language magazine four years ago into a regional festival drawing Polish visitors from southern New York as well as New Jersey. She estimated about 5,000 people would visit the event by the time it closes at midnight Sunday.

"We have people coming on buses from as far away as Connecticut," Lagodzka said. "It's become a very popular event."

Richard Mikulski, a 38-year-old truck driver from Pennsylvania, immigrated to the United States from Poland about 13 years ago and said festivals like Sunday's remind him of his childhood.

"I really miss the food and the music," he said. "It's like a little piece of home for me."

And you didn't have to be Polish to enjoy the revelry.

Ann Scott, 32, of Pomona, brought her elderly grandparents -- who were visiting from Dayton, Ohio -- to the festival.

"I've always been a fan of Polish food," she said. "And the rain held and it turned out to be a great day."

At booths across the park, vendors hawked Polish-style jewelry and memorabilia from the country's national soccer team. Visitors stuffed themselves with traditional foods such as golabki, or stuffed cabbage rolls, and kielbasa. Guests drank popular Polish beers such as Zywiec and Okocim and feasted on sticky, sweet desserts and pastries.

On a stage, dancers and musicians performed in traditional apparel -- brightly colored vests, skirts or fitted pants, and midcalf black boots for clomping loudly to the beat while the audience clapped along.

Marta Kusteck, editor of the Polish-language newspaper Dobra Polska Szkola, was handing out information about Polish schools in the tristate area, which she said have increased in recent years to accommodate demand from new arrivals.

She said the children of first-generation Polish immigrants often know little about their roots.

"It's important to teach them," she said. "And events like this help bring our people closer together."

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