Partying: Polish Style
Dyngus Day, A Polish Celebration, Takes Over Cleveland's West Side With Pierogi, Paczki and Polka
By Lexi Hotchkiss, Image by Cody York
If some guy wearing a fake beard and spinning polka records—all while playing the accordion—tells you to celebrate a Polish holiday called Dyngus Day, we recommend you heed his advice. After all, that guy is the one and only DJ Kishka. He's not only the most hilarious polka-perfect performer in all The Land, but he's one of the creators of Cleveland Dyngus Day.
Dyngus Day is the name for Easter Monday (in 2018 it's April 2). Historically a Polish tradition, Dyngus Day celebrates the end of the observance of Lent, the joy of Easter and the beginning of spring. How do they do it? With tons of Polish food, polka music and, of course, beer.
After learning about Dyngus Day, DJ Kishka (aka Justin Gorski) and several businesses in Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood said, "This must happen in Cleveland." After all, Cleveland's got heavy Eastern European roots, as well as a rather impressive devotion to polka music.
Cleveland's Dyngus Day
Cleveland's first Dyngus Day back in 2010 was initially a culmination of smaller events at a handful of bars within one neighborhood.
"But, when we started Dyngus Day in Cleveland, we knew we needed to have some sort of event or focal point," Gorski said. "We wanted it to be about more than just showing up, drinking beer and eating a kielbasa sandwich."
So, the organizers also put on an evening parade that consists of a Dyngus Day float, a large swath of accordionists playing together, Polish dance groups and other organizations.
Miss Dyngus Day Pageant
One of the event's most popular activities is The Miss Dyngus Day Pageant.
Young women (and men, too!) are welcome to apply for Miss Dyngus Day online. Then, DJ Kishka narrows the group down to six or seven final contestants who go through a battery of tests on Dyngus Day.
"In previous years, there's been a pierogi-making contest. But typically, we'll have them fill in a polka song lyric, perform a special talent, test their Polish history and, of course, there's the polka dance off," Gorski explained. "These herculean feats will help us choose the next Miss Dyngus Day."
So, what exactly does Miss Dyngus Day receive as recognition??
A scholarship? A modeling contract? Gifts from the official sponsors?
"Once she's crowned, she gets to place the ceremonial pierogi on top of the Dyngus Day float. Then, she sits on a thrown and gets serenaded through the streets of Cleveland to a ménage of accordions."
[We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.]
Eat, Drink & Be Polish
This year, Detroit Avenue between W. 57th and W. 59th Streets will be shutdown and fully devoted to Dyngus Day antics.
It's there that you can nosh on some serious pierogi from The Pierogi Lady and Cleveland Vegan; chow down on Polish sausage sandwiches; and get your sugar fix with the world-famous paczki from Rudy's Strudel & Bakery.
Thankfully, Dyngus Day organizers work with Lolly the Trolley buses to transport festivalgoers between all neighborhoods free of charge.
If you want a good laugh, you mustn’t miss DJ Kishka’s performances during Dyngus Day at his very own Beer Heaven Tent. After all, this guy is a legit celebrity here in C-town. He’s the local artist and businessman who’s known for his quirky, fun and uniquely Cleveland shows featured at Cleveland Kurentovanje, Sausagefest, Paczki Day, area Oktoberfests and other festivities.
His shows, which will leave you breathless from the nonstop dancing and constant laughter, often draw hundreds of fans ranging from Polish grannies to mustached hipsters. And, yes, they’re all busting out their best polka dance moves.
Ain't No Party Like a Polish Party
Be one with your inner Clevelander at this year's Dyngus Day celebrations by kicking back a few Tyskie beers, checking out the Opening Ceremonies (10am), watching the Miss Dyngus Day Pageant (4:30pm), partaking in the parade (6pm) and jigging to some Polka Floyd (yes, a polka band who only performs Pink Floyd) and dozens of other polka bands (10am-9pm).
Oh, did we mention there'll be a real, live Polish wedding to attend? Yeah, that's totally happening (4pm).
Check out the schedule and other event details here.
Map It Out!
Map out your Day of Dyngus-ness! Scope Destination Cleveland's interactive map.