I grew up in a small town, and for me, summer will forever be the season of street dances, county fairs and small-town ethnic festivals.
All of these contain some combination of the following: country and/or polka music; grilled and/or fried food, beer.
I am fond of all of these things. So I was excited when I learned that this weekend, Polish Fest is coming to the bar conglomerate at 36th and Farnam Streets that makes up Beer Corner USA.
Polish Fest started three years ago as sort of a fluke, said Chris Bettini, Beer Corner USA bartender and social media manager.
The distributor who provides the bars with Polish beers had a bunch more available than usual, Bettini said. So Beer Corner owner Bill Baburek took them, rounded up a polka band and some Polish sausage and threw a little party one afternoon.
“Omaha's Polish community took to it really well, and we knew that the next year was going to have to be much larger,” Bettini said.
Last year, they moved the event from the beer garden to the parking lot, and added more food and more beer. This year, they're adding a second polka band and even more food, including fried pierogies.
“You can never not have something fried,” he said.
Bettini said he expects the crowd to be a multi-generational mix — youngsters showing up for the party, older people coming out for the traditional music and food (this is also something I appreciate about ethnic festivals). Bettini, who is himself part Polish (his family is from Chicago where there are “more Polish people than there are in Warsaw”), said he expected a few kids, too — like any good small-town festival, this is a family-friendly event.
Admission is free, and beer and food will be available for purchase. Bettini said the event would be cash-only, though there's an ATM on-site.
Polish beers available include Zywiec (on draft), as well as bottles of Warka, Tatra, Hevelius, EB and Lezajsk. Shots of a blackberry brandy called Jezynowka will be available for $2. Mark and Stan will get the polka music started at 2 p.m. They'll play until 6 p.m. and Bobby Z and the Polka Joy will take over at 7 p.m. and will play until 11.
Can't make Polishfest? Prefer a different ethnic festival? Here are others coming up this summer:
Santa Lucia Festival
When: June 7-10
Where: Lewis & Clark Landing, 515 N. Riverfront Drive
What: Italian food, music, dancing and carnival.
Czech Days golden jubilee
When: June 15-17
Where: Clarkson, Neb.
What: Ethnic food, music, polka street dance, rodeo, parade, button key accordion concerts and entertainment.
Wilber Czech Festival
When: Aug. 2-5
Where: Wilber, Neb.
What: Music and dancing, accordion jam, crafts and parades in the Czech Capital of Nebraska.
Information: Nebraska www.wilberchamberofcommerce.com and 888-494-5237
When: Aug. 24-26
Where: Canfield Plaza, 84th Street and West Center Road
What: Greek food, dancing, entertainment, boutique and artifacts.
Information: www.st johnsgreekorthodox.org
When: Sept. 14-15
Where: German American Society, 3717 S. 120th St.
What: German music, food and dancing.
Information: www.germanamericansociety.org and 402-333-6615
La Festa Italiana
When: Aug. 31-Sept. 2
Where: To be announced
What: An old-fashioned Italian street festival with authentic Italian food, music, dancing, bocce ball, children's rides and family fun.
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