The delicious scent of Kielbasa and the beauty of swirling dancers are here again as the Portland Polish Festival returns Sept. 16-17 at the historic Polish Library Association site at 3900 N. Interstate Ave.
The celebration, the oldest Polish Festival on the West Coast, is back for the first time since 2019 after COVID cancellations. Admission is free and 10,000 to 12,000 visitors are expected.
The two-day festival offers non-stop traditional music and dance troupes including Lajkonik, who recently danced at the International Polish Folk Ensemble Festival in Rzeszow, Poland. The festival offers classic Polish food including pierogis (dumplings made with either cheese & potato, or cabbage and mushroom), the best kielbasa sausage this side of the Carpathian Mountains and many entrees and home-made Polish pastries.
The celebration opens at 11 am, Sept. 16 and the dedication ceremony will be at 3 pm with the Polish Consul from Los Angeles speaking. The festival will have a performance of a special Ukrainian-Polish dance in recognition of the Polish-American community of Portland’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight for independence against Russia. The Susse Fusse, Polish School children’s dancers, and the Kapella Blaser-Faver groups will also perform. The popular Zabavva band will play for the annual “Let’s Gdansk” street dance from 7 to 10 pm. Vendors will sell Polish-inspired jewelry, arts and crafts, pottery, cookbooks and clothes. Sunday events open at 12 noon with Lajkonik and other performers until 6 pm closing.
Oregon’s first Polish families were predominantly from the Carpathian Mountains of southern Poland and eastern Poland near present-day Ukraine. Upon immigrating to the United States, the families created a Polish National Alliance chapter in Portland in 1892. A Polish businessman built the nearby historic White Eagle Saloon. Poles later built the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in 1907 and the Polish Library Hall in 1911. Both landmarks display Romanesque architecture commonly found in southern Poland, and have been officially recognized as historic landmarks by the City of Portland.
In the 1970s and 1980s St. Stanislaus and Polish Library members helped organize other Polish communities throughout the United States to secretly funnel money into Poland to help anti-Communist dissidents during the Soviet era. After the end of the Cold War in 1989, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa visited St. Stanislaus Church on a national tour.