Blessed Mary Angela Parish Polka Fest a huge success

OBSERVER Photos by Diane R. Chodan Picture above, local people as well as many from Buffalo, Erie PA, and even from Canada came to enjoy the music of The Chicago Push polka band.

“Location, location, location” contributed to the success of Blessed Mary Angela Parish’s Polka Fest on Sunday. The Dunkirk parish is located midway between Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA.–areas that, like Dunkirk itself, have strong Polish-American communities.

Event Coordinator Tony Popeliarz of Dunkirk estimated that 1500-2000 people came to enjoy the music provided by Lenny Gomulka and the Chicago Push orchestra. The upbeat music prompted clapping, toe tapping and dancing, by both the oldest and the very youngest of listeners.

The members of the Grammy nominated Chicago Push clearly were enjoying themselves both when playing and when taking a break. The very personable and talented musicians welcomed folks who were their friends and dedicated songs to them as well as to those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. The band plays in locations in the United States and Canada and will play in Buffalo on Aug. 31. See

Jim Lacki from Cheektowaga stood near the tent, singing Polish words to his baby son, Lucas.

“I’m not sure what the words mean, but I can sing them,” he said. “I just enjoy these events. My brother is in a polka band in Buffalo.”

Part of the parking lot near the church served as a dance floor. Different couples employed different styles of dancing. Not all numbers were polkas; both waltzes and obereks were also featured. Local couple Ron and Janice Budniewski enjoyed their opportunity to dance.

“It was nice having a polka band. It was like the good old days,” said Janice.

A chicken barbecue by Chiavetta’s, hotdogs, hamburgers, and Polish (fresh) sausage sandwiches, a beer tent and a basket raffle were also on the grounds at 324 Townsend St.

Many people pointed to Tony as a reason for the event’s success. As committee member Mary Ann Herrington said, “He (Tony) is a one man show and really the one responsible for pulling this off. I think the spirit of cooperation from the volunteers of both churches was phenomenal.”

Tony, in a purple Lenny Gomulka shirt, seemed to be everywhere, grinning from ear to ear. Other volunteers staffed the kitchen during the barbecue and helped out at the booths.

On Monday, reflecting about the event, Tony still had a smile in his voice. “I had a tremendous committee helping me which gave me the courage and the guts to do this. I also could not have done it without our sponsors. The parish and the local community came together. I had encouragement from Father John,” he said.

Sponsors included a number of small businesses, individuals and social clubs. “It made all the difference that the tent and the band were paid for ahead of time,” Tony said. “The mayor was behind me from the beginning and I think he was impressed when he came to see it.”

In addition to the sponsors, people contributed to the basket raffle. “I had hoped to have five nice baskets, but people kept coming to donate,” he said. “We had beautiful big ticket items.”

It was important to make sure people knew about the event. Holy Trinity Parish in Erie, Pa. put the event into their bulletin. About 100 people came from the parish. Blessed Mary Angela will be reciprocating by letting its parishioners know about Holy Trinity’s Zabawa Polish heritage festival Aug. 24, 25, and 26.

Tony also said that the OBSERVER and WDOE were very helpful publicizing the event.

About 25 people served on the committee for the event. The chicken barbecue closed down at 4 p.m. so the volunteers would have the opportunity to enjoy the music themselves.

Will the Polka Fest become a tradition? Tony laughed and answered, “I’m giving you the scoop. We’ve already decided we are going to do it again. We will try to get a date that will work with Lenny.”

Other things may be planned too, like a mock Polish wedding and a Polka Mass. The committee has already held a meeting to discuss ways to improve next year. Stay tuned for the next edition of Dunkirk’s Polka Fest.