This weekend offers multiple chances to see energetic Eastern European dancing, sample exotic comfort foods such as pierogi, and relax with a beer from the Old Country.
The Ukrainian Fest, Sept. 7 and 8; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, is in its 38th year. The festival is in Patterson Park, at Linwood and Eastern avenues.
“We’ve stayed in the city with our festival,” said Stephen Humeniuk, co-chair of the event, which has free admission.
Humeniuk notes that the festival, along with two Ukrainian churches nearby in the city, helps keep the culture alive in Baltimore. He estimates that there are 5,000 Ukrainians or so in Baltimore.
The Ukrainian Festival, however, is popular to city and state residents regardless of ethnicity.
“A lot of people come just to watch the dance groups,” he said, adding that Ukrainian dance is “very energetic,” with “acrobatics” coming from the men and graceful movement by the women.
“The dance ensembles set us apart from other ethnic groups,” said Humeniuk.
The two-day festival includes eight dance performances, as well as Ukrainian violin performances and even an acapella group.
On Sunday at 3:30 p.m., festival-goers will find out who can eat a dozen pierogies the fastest. The record time is under two minutes, Humeniuk said.
For those who prefer to just sit and relax, there will be a beer garden with five different types of Ukrainian beer as well as Ukrainian honey liquor.
Vendors will sell and display a large variety of Ukrainian goods, including ceramics, jewelry, religious items and embroidered clothing. Folk artists will demonstrate wood carving, egg painting and more. Kids’ activities include a moonbounce and rock-climbing wall.
More information on the Ukrainian Festival is available at www.ukrainianfestival.net.
This weekend also brings the Polish Fall Festival, Saturday, noon-7p.m., and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. The festival is on the grounds of the Holy Rosary Church, 408 S. Chester St.
Christine Grabowski, who organizes the festival, noted that since the larger Maryland Polish Festival moved out of the city and onto the Timonium Fairgrounds, Holy Rosary has received frequent calls to hold its own festival and keep it in the city.
“We decided to do it five years ago,” Grabowski said. “Every year, it has grown tremendously.”
This year, the festival has enlisted the TKO band to play popular music from 5-10 p.m. on Saturday.
As with the Ukrainian Festival, dance performances are a large draw at the Polish Fall Festival.
“They practice in the church every Sunday,” said Grabowski.
What distinguishes the Polish Fall Festival, she added, is that “everything we have—the Polish food—is handmade by volunteers, the Polish ladies of Holy Rosary Church.”
Those ladies have made about 20,000 pierogies, Grabowski said, which often sell out within two days. There are also 2,000 galumpkis, Polish soups and fresh Polish sausage for festival goers to enjoy, as well as four types of Polish beer.
The Polish Fall Festival has 23 vendors with wares including Polish jewelry and pottery, and there is an expanded children’s area in the church lot this year, Grabowski added.
The free-admission festival also includes films on Pope John Paul II as well as the movie “Faustina,” based on Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose divine intervention the Catholic Church credits with saving the life of Holy Rosary’s late pastor, Father Ron Pytel, in 1995.
There will also be tours of Holy Rosary Church.
“A lot of people from the country don’t realize how beautiful—and how big—that church is,” said Grabowski.
by Erik Zygmont