Central New York, Community, Feature, Things to do

Syracuse Celebrates 63rd Polish Festival

An inside look at the 63rd annual Syracuse Polish Festival.

By Mike Drew SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — For 63 years, the Polish Scholarship Fund has been hosting the Syracuse Polish Festival downtown.

It’s an incredibly popular event, attracting thousands of visitors every June.

Most of those visitors are loyal Polish people who mark the weekend the event will be held every year on their calendars.

“A lot of the people that are here, I already know who they are,” Martha Zemsta, Owner of Moss Organic Hair Salon said. “So, it’s nice to see faces that I haven’t seen in over a year.”

It’s the second year Zemsta’s company has set up a tent at the festival. Not only does it provide her business with more exposure, but it allows her to work side-by-side with people she’s bonded with over the years through her heritage.

Longtime festival visitor Francis Kozlowski echoes the same sentiments.

“I just love seeing the aspects of my heritage with the dancers and things,” Kozlowski said. “They just don’t exist outside festivals.”

The same can be said for the famous pierogi eating contest, which happens on the last day of the event each year.

This year’s winner chowed down a record 34 pierogis in just 3 minutes in front of hundreds of spectators.

Traditional Polish bands and dancers also took center-stage on Sunday, including the Melody Lane Band and the Lechowia Dance Polish-Canadian Company from Toronto.

No matter your age, the festival always has something for everyone to enjoy.

“Everybody loves the beer,” Zemsta said. “And the food. It’s just a great atmosphere, great group of people.”

The most important thing is that the festival raises money for the Polish Scholarship Fund, which awards $1,000 worth of scholarships to 10 Central New York high school and college students of Polish descent.

This year’s winners were:

  • Emily Bak
  • Elizabeth DeGennaro
  • Mary Elizabeth Dristle
  • Noah Kotzin
  • Stefania Marzynski
  • Nicholas Visconti
  • Zuzanna Pociecha
  • Sophie Popiel
  • Elizabeth Siok
  • Charvel Stanejko

For more information on this year’s festival and to follow what’s to come next year, you can visit polishscholarship.org.