Polka Pow-Wow hopes to continue recognition of Polish heritage
Polish Heritage Awareness Society is resurrecting a Polka Pow-Wow to continue bringing more awareness to Portage County’s Polish roots in the hopes that younger generations will continue traditions.
The Polka Pow-Wow is a two-day event that will celebrate 159 years of Polish Heritage in Portage County. It will run from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Moose Family Center, 1052 Second St. N., and from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at Blue Top Banquet Hall in Rookies Sports Bar, 3425 Church St., Stevens Point.
Organizers also are encouraging out-of-town attendees to spend time at the Portage County Cultural Festival prior to the event. The Cultural Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Stevens Point Area Senior High School.
“It’s a big cultural weekend here with the Cultural Festival and (AIRO) pow-wow … and having an event like this will help elongate the good feelings and hopefully bring other people in,” said Polish Heritage Awareness Society President Gayle Phillip. “We’re such a homogenized society now – and rightfully so, I guess – the days where Polish people stuck with Polish people and Germans with German and so on are over. We fought wars together, we go to church together, everyone speaks English now, and we can appreciate each other’s heritage.
“The pow-wow is a good thing to make sure that people don’t forget,” she said. “It’s something that … is pretty exciting for our culture.”
Cost for the pow-wow is $15 Saturday and $10 Sunday at the door. The event will feature Polish music, dancing and food, and newcomers are welcome to join the experience, Phillip said.
Two bands hailing from Chicago – Keith Stras & Polka Confetti and IPA Tribute Band – will provide music for continuous dancing on Saturday. There also will be Polish and American food, beverages and special events as part of the pow-wow.
“Our desire is to continue this event annually to preserve the culture, the heritage and get the young people involved to revive it so they don’t lose it,” Polish Society member Leon Ostrowski said.
On Sunday, Stephani & Her Honky Polka Band out of Buffalo, N.Y., will provide music. There also will be refreshments and food available.
The Portage County Polish lineage began in 1857 when Michael von Koziczkowski, left Poland and arrived here to start a new life for his family. The land was poor but inexpensive so additional settlers purchased the land and logged it, then cared for the land to provide for the family and community, Ostrowski said.
Poles settled in Portage County mostly from the Kaszuby region of Poland and many from the Gulcz region, near Poznan, and later from every region of Poland, making the area rich in Polish heritage, according to members. From these small beginnings, Portage County has evolved into what Ostrowski dubs “Wisconsin’s Little Poland.”
The Pow-Wow will be different from the Dozynski Harvest Festival, which is put on by the Polish Heritage Awareness Society in the fall. The Dozynski is a Polish harvest festival, still celebrated in rural parts of Poland, and it includes Polish food, polka dancing, crafts and heritage information. The Dozynski also provides a scholarship opportunity for students beginning their junior or senior year of high school who plan on post-secondary education.
The Polka Pow-Wow, which was put on the first time nine years ago as a celebration of 150 years of Polish heritage in the county, will provide a spring kickoff event that will complement the festival as well as the Sunday polkas held through the winter months, society members said. A genealogy expert also will be on hand.
The funds raised through the pow-wow will be used for additional programming, such as a poster contest for children next year, Ostrowski said, along with potentially a new “park within a park” created in conjunction with the county’s other sister city groups.
Other areas across the county show the strength of the Polish heritage including Sacred Heart Church and School. The Polish Heritage Awareness Society and the Stevens Point Convention and Visitors’ Bureau also have a trail section that people can take to visit sites, roadside shrines and historical markers whether via vehicle or bike.
The Polish Heritage Awareness Society of Central Wisconsin Inc. is an organization dedicated to the education, promotion and preservation of the Polish American heritage. The group has been part of the Cultural Festival and has sponsored numerous talks and programs specific to Polish American genealogy.
For more information, go to www.polishheritageawareness.com or www.polkapowwow.com