On July 18, I received an email asking me to be a judge in the Corpus Christi 4th Annual Pierogi Contest. You would have thought that I was given a million dollars with how excited I got. Not only would it be an extraordinary experience, but I’d also get to eat pierogis! I immediately added the event to my Google calendar, but I knew that the date would be permanently engraved in my noggin!
Waiting for today was like being 5 years old again waiting for Christmas day to arrive… but, it came. I made sure that I ate very lightly and left early enough to get there with out any conflicts. Oh, and by the way, I had my wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday. The doctor wanted to schedule it for yesterday, but I refused, as I had a big event that I could not miss.
Upon entering the Dozynki Festival, the happiness was contagious! People were laughing, eating, drinking, and dancing! I was very familiar with Polish music, as I grew up around it. I registered, participated in the Chinese Auction, and sat down anxiously waiting for the contest to commence. There were about 12 judges, including myself, all of which are Buffalo-centric and active in in the community in some way. I believe that they were all just as excited as I was. I got the wonderful pleasure of sitting across from Ben Siegel. Ben is an editor and designer for the Block Club magazine and he also works to help small businesses with design, marketing, web, and social media needs.
The first pierogi came out. Its filling was almost like the filling of a pastelitos. It was delicious, but I was so nervous to score it because I didn’t have anything to compare it to yet. The scoring was broken down into three categories: presentation, dough, and taste. I ate the second, all the way to the eighth. I sampled everything from cheese to blue-berry, to steak and potato. But, to my surprise, my favorite one of all was a sauerkraut one. I typically hate kraut, but this one was seasoned to perfection and had some sort of finely chopped meat tossed in the mix. It had caramelized onions resting on top of it and it was served with a dollop of sour cream with fresh parsley strewn through it. I, so badly, want to find out who made this one so that I can order a dozen of them. When I discovered that I was on my last pierogi, I was disappointed but at the same time I was relieved because I was stuffed!
I sat down at a table, gearing up to hear the results of the contest when the sweetest, elderly man asked me, “Hunny, did your grandparents belong to this church?” After answering that they did not, he spoke so elegantly about the neighborhood and how he grew up two streets over and that he is the youngest of 6 children to be born and raised in the neighborhood. But, when he mentioned the area’s present day status, his words turned solemn and his articulation began to fade in and out. His wife finished her Polish Platter and chimed into the conversation by stressing her personal concern for the Aldi’s that is set to open across from the Broadway Market. This lovely couple is definitive of the area’s past and I feel that they are desperate for their heritage to progress.
After hearing the winners and seeing how they and the non-winners (I do not feel that the word loser was appropriate here, because they were all winners to some extent) were all excited for one another, I decided to take a leisurely stroll throughout the church’s property. I scoped out the exhibits, the flea market, bought some dessert to-go, and of course went into the church itself. I sat down in a pew and just examined the beauty of the church. It is currently going through restoration which meant that there was scaffolding all over, but that did not hinder its beauty… rather it made it more attractive knowing that people cared enough to maintain it.
“A great city is that which has the greatest men and women.” ~Walt Whitman
When I left, I did the typical thing that most visitors of the area do… I went to Central Terminal, parked, and stared aimlessly. I used that as an opportunity to reflect on my magnificent day. I was a participant in the celebration of one Buffalo’s finest heritages, I got to eat pierogi, talk to wonderful people, listen to some Polish music, and network with some of Buffalo’s finest! I then thought about how this church and neighborhood was so lucky to have people like Christopher Byrd and the other members of Broadway-Fillmore-Alive. Those people have clear passion and love for a community and are working ambitiously to preserve the past and maintain its future!