Church members gather to make pierogi for festival

Aug. 27, 2019 | Hope E. Tremblay

Sandy Dawizki, at left, and Teresa Oleksak make some of the thousands of pierogi that will be sold at the Holy Trinity Fall Festival.
Reminder Publishing photo by Hope E. Tremblay

WESTFIELD – Making pierogi the old-fashioned way is an artform handed down from generation to generation in the city’s Polish community.

From making the dough, to rolling it – first by hand then in a hand-cranked pasta machine – then stuffing it and crimping the edges, pierogi making is a time-honored tradition.

For members of the Holy Trinity Parish, making pierogi together before the annual Fall Festival is another tradition passed down through generations.

On a recent Saturday, 30 volunteers gathered in the Holy Trinity kitchen in the former elementary school next to the church. And for several hours, they laughed, shared stories – most told in their native Polish – and made pierogi. Thousands of pierogi.

“We make a few thousand cheese, a few thousand potato, a few thousand cabbage,” said organizer Lucy Lewinski. “And then we make the kapusta.”

Kapusta is a Polish side dish made with cabbage, sauerkraut and plenty of bacon. The Polish specialties are a big draw of the Fall Festival, scheduled this year for Sept. 15 at Pilsudski Park. Visitors of the event can enjoy a meal with friends at the park while listening to live music, or they can take-out a meal or bring home pierogi, which are frozen fresh after being made by the volunteers.

The pierogi making runs like clockwork under Lewinski’s watchful eye as she consults what she calls her “magic notebook.”

The notebook – written in a combination of Polish and English – includes Lewinski’s notes taken over the years. She marks how many pierogi were made, which variety was more popular, who helped, etc.  Throughout the day Saturday, Lewinski would consult her magic notebook, adding a new entry here and there. One Saturday was cheese and potato pierogi day, with cabbage and kapusta making another day.

“Then we make the golumpki a few days before the festival,” Lewinski said.

Golumpki is another Polish favorite featuring ground meat with onions and spices wrapped inside a cabbage leaf and baked with tomato sauce.

“People come to the Fall Festival for the food, music and games, but really it’s to be part of the community,” Lewinski said.

The Holy Trinity Fall Festival dates back 75 years to the best of the knowledge of longtime volunteers. The parish’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the event draws people from outside the church.

“This is really a great community-building event,” Lewinski said. “It’s a tradition, but every year I see so many new faces and without the volunteers and participants, this wouldn’t happen.”

The Holy Trinity Fall Festival is Sept. 15 from 12-5 p.m. at Pilsudski Park, 200 Old County Rd., Holyoke. In addition to live music and both Polish and American fare, the event includes homemade baked goods, Bingo, raffles, children’s games and a bounce house. Admission to the festival is free.

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