POSEN – It’s not really about potatoes.
A longstanding tradition that swells a small town for a few rowdy days each year, the Posen Potato Festival connects residents to their old country roots and brings visitors from far and wide for an annual taste of Polish community and camaraderie. .
The 71st annual festival wrapped up Sunday in the normally quiet County town of Près Isle.
“When you come here, it’s like being part of the family,” Kash Kieliszewski shouted, surrounded by high-volume rejoicing and high spirits as she sat with longtime friends in the Polka Pavillion. Sunday afternoon.
After days of carnival rides, hearty meals, 5K Spud Runs and potato stalls, the festival spilled onto Posen’s main thoroughfare on Sunday for a jolly parade, a spirited announcer at a booth of review describing the guests of honor and passing creative floats.
Several floats honored the festival’s namesake root vegetable, with huge humorous potatoes made of unknown substances – or, in one case, humans in costume – earning smiles from the crowd.
The girls on the sidewalks spread their light guns in their best princess waves to a flood of Potato Festival royalty.
Bands played, riders smiled and children dove for candy, the street for a brief moment transformed into a community gathering spot.
Afterwards, the crowd returned to the main festival grounds, splitting into small groups that meandered among the craft stalls and made their way to the carnival games.
Children threw their arms on rides and ate cotton candy with sticky fingers.
In the distance, during the bump and run demo derby, cars with tough track records proved they still had the fire of the competition as they raced around a track, engines humming.
Priests in ankle-length black robes carried sacks of rolled up sausages, and people everywhere sported red t-shirts emblazoned with the eagle, Poland’s national emblem.
In the center of the peaceful bustle, music was wafting from a tall white building.
Inside, rows of picnic tables — their seats filled with cheerful people finishing kielbasa or sipping beer — flanked a wooden dance floor.
Musicians on a stage to one side of the dance floor filled the open building with the one-two-three sounds of a cheerful polka song.
Ahead of them were couples whirling and kicking and galloping and laughing, breathless and dizzy and not caring at all whether they were doing it right.
Couples married for half a century, parents and children, old women and young men, friends and strangers jumped, twirled and danced with joyful abandon.
With “Who Stole the Kishka” playing in the background, Kieliszewski and his friends Elle Rygwelski, Pat Hentkowski and Doris Kowalski tried to figure out how old they were when the festival started.
They don’t speak much Polish — although Kieliszewski makes a mean paczki — but, between themselves, they at least knew the Polish words for “How are you” and “beer,” they said.
For locals, the Potato Festival is the “last hurrah” of summer, Hentkowski said.
Brighton’s Ilene and Victor Wieczorek travel to Posen every year and will continue to come for their chance to spin around the dance floor, said Ilene Wieczorek.
Posen resident Brian Talaske, sharing his thoughts with his feet rather than words, invited a stranger to join him for a welcome lap around the dance floor, ending with a spin and a flourish.
While waiting for a song to start, Gus Zielinski said he sometimes attends more than 40 polka festivals a year.
The Posen festival stands out among the rest, he said.
Zielinski and his 61-year-old wife, Gerry, want to teach their grandchildren about their Polish heritage. The warmth and cross-generational spirit, everyone belongs here from the Posen Potato Festival’s polka pavilion helps it keep and share this heritage, he said.
“We are blessed,” Gus Zielinski said. “I can’t tell you how many ways. Our love for music and polka dancing, we are blessed.
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, email@example.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.