GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Polish Festival returned to Grand Rapids after being cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
Despite the heat, attendees were ready to celebrate, enjoy polish culture and enjoy traditional polish cuisine.
"COVID took everybody out," said festival co-chair John Theisen. "All the festivals are gone for a year. This is the first festival that we come back to. We came back with a vengeance. We brought in the proper safety procedures, hand washing stations, hand sanitizer everywhere. Social distancing, the whole nine yards."
Festival goers did their best to stay safe while braving the hot weather and enjoying the Polish food, music and culture.
"People are ready to party and have a good time," said festival co-chair Anthony Zasuwa. "It's been long overdue, and we're just happy to be back here and doing the festival.'
Organizers wanted to celebrate their rich Polish history, while keeping the legacy going of the longest running ethnic festival in Grand Rapids.
"It's important to keep that legacy going," Zasuwa said. "So that we don't lose it. You know, we've gotten very Americanized, over the years. And back when a lot of our ancestry immigrated from Poland, it was the other way around, we were trying to Americanize everyone, and teach them the language so that they could assimilate. And now we sort of lost some of that culture. And we're trying to bring it back.
Vendors loved seeing the festival make a triumphant return.
"We have been here for many, many years after World War Two, an awful lot of our parents came here to escape the concentration camps and escape everything from Poland," said vendor Krystyna Sweeney. "So we have settled here on the west side of Michigan. And we love it here...(attendees are) delighted. I mean, they're just thrilled that we're open again, and they're thrilled that we're here. And that they're, you know, coming in for their pure doggies and Guam keys and all the Polish food and visiting our vendors.
The Festival started Friday, Aug. 27 and wrapped up two days later around 5 p.m. It's a major fundraiser for the Polish Heritage Society of Grand Rapids.