Even without an election, Dyngus Day serves up solidarity ... and plenty of sausage

SOUTH BEND — U.S. Sen Joe Donnelly signed for the 200 pounds of Polish sausage in the morning at the West Side Democratic Club and ate a sandwich of that sausage rolled in a slice of white bread hours later as he talked to constituents.

Then he reached into the Polish noodles with his fingers and kept eating and talking. As someone new walked up, he shook hands.

Dyngus Day is not for the dainty. It’s for those willing to shout over the polka music or the politicians to get another beer. Being able to walk through a crowd without spilling food or beverage becomes a prized skill.

One woman at her first Dyngus Day said she had Polish heritage, but had never heard of this spring tradition.

“If I told my grandmother I was Dyngusing, she probably would have washed my mouth out with soap,” she said.

For those in the know, it’s a beloved tradition. For others, it’s best just to say this is a traditional Polish end to Lent that’s always the Monday after Easter and involves food, beer and politicians, preferably in that order.

The political speeches were short at West Side. Applause was warm, but more people were gathered around the bar than near the stage. In the hot kitchen, Tim Hudak and his crew boiled the sausage from Jaworski’s Market in beer, the noodles in water and the cabbage cooked down into sweet goodness. But Hudak, president and chief cook, said he doesn’t use butter, but a secret ingredient.

He’s been working for days to get ready and started at 4 a.m. Monday, but said it’s important to keep the tradition of the club going.

Dyngus Day is a traditional Polish holiday that has been celebrated in South Bend since at least 1930, according to local lore. It's the day after Easter. For many decades, it's also been intertwined with politicians working the crowds to win votes in the Indiana primary election. Take a look at these scenes from South Bend Tribune archives showing Dyngus Day through the years.

The days of the smoke-filled rooms on Dyngus Day are mostly gone. In a non-election year, Dyngus or Solidarity Day becomes about the tradition, the gathering, more than the campaigning. On one of the nicest days of the spring so far, people lingered outside to smoke and chat.

One man stood next to his car finishing one Dyngus Day meal so he could go inside the Elks Lodge 298 to eat the Solidarity Day barbecue.

Outside the lodge, Michael Poindexter checked on the chicken, rib tips and sausage. Wood smoke wafted toward downtown from the near West Side and welcomed those coming to the club where Garnett Keeys, one of the lodge leaders, was telling stories about the past. He pointed to a photo of Bill Clinton speaking at the club, campaigning for his wife Hillary.

“He ate up all of my rib tips,” Keeys said of the former U.S. president.

For $10, you could get a portion of those tips and either chicken or sausage, but not all three. Sides were spaghetti and green beans.

At Simeri’s, people were on the patio eating the Polish special of sausage, mashed potatoes, green beans and noodles, though at least several people inside opted for large salads.

At Joe’s Bar, Karagh Brennan was busy in the kitchen while her parents Joe and Carol Gleckler were behind the bar. Staff members delivered foam plates laden with sausage, mashed potatoes, green beans, noodles and cabbage, plus a piece of fried chicken. All for $10. “She’s not chintzy,” Gleckler said of her daughter.

The offerings and prices vary slightly, but the hospitality was warm, like the weather. And it was extended to all, no matter how you spell your last name.

South Bend Tribune



What is Dyngus Day and why do Western New Yorkers celebrate?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) —Along with Easter a lot of Western New Yorkers enjoy the Monday after the holiday. If you don’t know, it’s called Dyngus Day. But what is it and how did it get started? It’s an event that signifies the end of the austerity and inner reflection of lent.

Eddy Dobosiewicz, President of Dyngus Day Buffalo explains, “Dyngus Day is an ancient observance that Buffalo has turned into a civic holiday. It’s really fat Tuesday on the other side of lent.”

Many already have the day off of work because of Easter, so the number of people who celebrate, is huge, especially in the Queen City.

Dobosiewicz shared with News 4, “Buffalo is undoubtedly the Dyngus Day capital of the world. There is no other place on the planet that celebrates Dyngus Day like we do here in the Queen city, not even in Poland.”

Poland looks at the holiday as more of an annoyance, or as an April fool’s joke. The children play lots of pranks on each other including one many of us have picked up on.

He said, “Boys would splash girls with water that they were attracted to. They would also use pussy willows or branches of spring to sort of switch them about the legs.”

And if you think that’s wacky, the following day, women would throw plates and cups at men they found appealing. Luckily after being westernized, that part of the tradition has been replaced. The event has grown in numbers here in Buffalo by a lot in recent years.

Dobosiewicz said, “When we first started the parade back 11 years ago in 2007, we probably had about 50 people that took part in the parade and 1,000 watching. This year we estimate we’ll probably get 40-50 thousand people that take part.”

And when the king of Dyngus traveled to Poland and shared that news, something big emerged. The first ever Dyngus Day Buffalo event will be held in Poland this year. But if you can’t make it to Poland, you can watch the Buffalo parade starting on Broadway.


Dyngus Day in Western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y.---Monday is Dyngus Day in Western New York.

Dyngus Day falls on the Monday after Easter and is a celebration of the Polish heritage.

Several Dyngus Day events are scheduled for Monday.

One of the most popular events is the annual Dyngus Day parade in Buffalo's historic Polonia District. It starts at 5 p.m. in front of Corpus Christi Church and heads down Broadway to Memorial Drive.

Dyngus Day celebrations also return to the Central Terminal Monday. There will be traditional Polish food and live music there from 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

There will also be a contest to find the best kielbasa in town at the Broadway Market. Judges will pick a winner in the Wholesale, Commercial and Homemade categories. That starts at noon.

Remember to share your Dyngus Day pictures with us on Facebook and Twitter using #BeOn2!

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