by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Sisters Sharon and Janice came for the polka music and stayed to reminisce. At the Jeny Kochany Festival — Polish for “oh, my gosh!” — last weekend, they reflected on fond childhood memories of listening to polka and waltzes as children, as well as going to big polka dances with their parents and learning how to dance from them. “It’s our childhood,” Sharon said.
Jeny Kochany Festival, part of the year of Kashubian Capital Centennial events originally slated for 2020, featured polka music and dancing, pisanki egg painting, vendors, and rock music during a day of Polish traditions and entertainment at Levee Park on October 9.
Debbie Dickenson, who volunteered at the event, also loved the polka music. Over the years, she has danced to polka at regional Oktoberfests and weddings. “The beat of it … gets you hooked,” she said. She added, “It’s hard not to move to the music.” With Winona having Polish heritage, it is important to keep the tradition of playing polka in town alive, she said. “It brings people together as a community. It’s just good-hearted, fun music that makes everybody happy … It keeps community strong,” she said.
Keeping Polish traditions alive at the Jeny Kochany Festival was a way to remember Winona’s early settlers and their traditions, Kashubian Capital Centennial organizer Michelle Alexander said. Those with Polish heritage could remind their children of their ancestors’ traditions, she said. The event was a way to celebrate the city’s tie with its Polish sister city, Bytow, as well, Alexander added.
Heather Millis and Tracy Morgan attended the event because they were curious about it and wanted to enjoy the day’s pleasant weather. “It’s October, and we can be outside without jackets,” Morgan said. Millis appreciated getting some good exposure to polka music. They also enjoyed the food at the event, such as crepes, and were thinking of trying tarts, potato pancakes and pierogi.
There are more Kashubian Capital Centennial events in the works, including a holiday market in December. For more information, visit kcc2020.org.