Dyngus Day draws politicians, crowds as the after Easter holiday is celebrated in Elkhart

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By: Amanda Wilkinson
awilkinson@flavor574.com

The Knights of Columbus were ready to feed nearly 800 people Monday in honor of Dyngus Day.

Steve Riikonen, the grand knight for the Knights of Columbus St. Jude Council 1043, said they would keep serving until they ran out of Polish kielbasa, sweet and sour cabbage, pickled eggs and beets, pierogis and noodles with chicken gravy.

Dyngus Day is a Polish holiday officially marking the end of Lent. The tradition at the Knights of Columbus in Elkhart was started by Don Gonsoski and Benny Wiercioch, who saw the fun that Polish-Americans were having in South Bend.

“In this country, we celebrate the day after Easter where everybody could let their hair down and have a good time,” Riikonen said.

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Riikonen figured this was about the 30th year the Knights have celebrated. And for many Elkhart area residents, this was their first year celebrating.

“This is my first year. (My daughter) invited me and it had everything I wanted,” Jennifer Albaugh, said with a plate full of food in her hands. The Elkhart resident said her favorite food at the Knights was the sweet and sour cabbage.

Brian Konarski has been coming to the Knights’ celebration since they started hosting it about 30 years ago. “First thing is, I’m Polish. So I love Dyngus Day, it’s good food,” he said.

Even though the celebration has become a “political scene,” he says he will come every year for the food. 

When asked about what his favorite Polish food was, Konarski looked down and said, “I could lick the plate.”

Local and state politicians also came to enjoy the food and talk to constituents. 

U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski and Governor Mike Pence were the big-ticket politicians to show up and eat. In fact, they showed up with a bus full of candidates running for local positions.

Walorski said she enjoys Dyngus Day because it is a part of her heritage. Having already made and eaten Polish food for her family’s Easter meal, Walorski said she enjoyed eating the pierogis since she didn’t have any on Sunday.

“I’ve been doing this with my family for 50 years. Dyngus Day celebration is unique and I absolutely love it. I love Elkhart for doing this,” she said.

Amanda Wilkinson is a reporter for the Elkhart Truth and writes for Flavor 574.
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