30th annual Polish Festival kicks off Friday in north Toledo

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The Lagrange Street Polish Festival kicks off Friday, marking decades of celebrations in Toledo.

The city's largest annual street festival has been going on for 30 years and attracts more than 20,000 visitors. It's known for delicious Polish food, amazing craft vendors, plus the best Polish musicians from around the country. Who could forget the pierogi-eating and polka-dancing contests?

The festival runs Friday night from 5 to 11 and continues all weekend long. Saturday's hours are from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday wraps up the festival with activities from noon to 7 p.m.

An amateur polka dance contest will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday. The ever popular pierogi-eating contest will be held Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Both contests will be held in the entertainment tent, but participants must register the day of the contest at the information booth because slots are limited. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.  

Special 30th anniversary events include an on-site Trivia Treasure Hunt all weekend. Attendees can pick up a Trivia Treasure Hunt answer sheet at the admission gate, any ticket booth or the information booth. Then just look for 30 12-inch discs scattered throughout the festival grounds with Polish (and festival) trivia questions. Record the answer given on the disc on the answer sheet. After answering all 30 questions, turn in the completed answer sheet at the information booth. All participants will receive a prize and be entered into a daily raffle to win a $50 Kroger gift card.

Beth Lewandowski has lived in the area for the past 40 years. She says the festival is first and foremost a neighborhood celebration, regardless of one's ethnicity.

"I think we're getting through the recession crisis and we're stabilizing the neighborhood, so our festival is very, very important financially, as well as socially, to bring the whole neighborhood together," said Lewandowski .

J-Mae's Home Cooking opened earlier this year across from the Ohio Theater. The restaurant owner says he's glad to be part of the Polish Village revival.

"There's a lot of effort and a lot of improvement going in the neighborhood. We just hope to be a part of that bringing this neighborhood back. It's a great neighborhood," said Jaleo Young.

Terry Glazer, with United North, says proceeds from the Lagrange Street Polish Fest fuels ongoing improvement programs.

"We have a free exterior paint program, where anybody in the neighborhood can get free exterior paint, no matter what their income. We also use money to help spruce up the business district," explained Glazer.

However, there has been speculation that this could be the final festival celebration on Lagrange.

"This festival, it's our 30th year, and will be going on for another 30 years and beyond," said Glazer.

General admission for the festival is $4, but Sunday's admission is $2. Children 8 and younger get in free. The festival takes place on Lagrange between Central Avenue and Mettler Street in the heart of Polish International Village. The entrance to the festival is located at Central.

Don't know where to park? Park for free at Central Catholic High School on Cherry Street, then pay just $1 for round-trip transportation to the festival. Children get to ride for free. The shuttle runs each day starting one hour before the festival opens and ending one hour after the festival closes.

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