Thousands turn out for Polish food festival in Lawrenceville

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Ania Chmielewska loves pierogi -- so much so that she was willing to wait Saturday in a line that rivaled the queues found at most amusement parks.

"That's my favorite Polish food," said Chmielewska, who is from Poland. "It's hard to make, though. It takes all day."

Thousands of people from throughout the Atlanta area spent a chunk of their afternoon waiting in line for pierogi and other traditional Polish fare. While attendance numbers for the Polish Catholic Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Atlanta's Polish Pierogi Festival weren't immediately available Saturday, the food line -- with a nearly two-hour wait -- showed the festival hadn't waned in popularity in its second year.

Last year, the event sold out of 5,000 pierogi in 21/2 hours, said Elizabeth Gurtler-Krawczynska, the festival coordinator. This year, organizers more than doubled the number of available pierogi and had about 80 volunteers doing everything from cooking and serving food to directing traffic outside.

Gurtler-Krawczynska said pierogi are often part of traditional meals in Poland, such as Christmas Eve dinner. There are two types of meatless pierogi -- one with cheese and potato and one with sauerkraut and mushrooms -- as well as one stuffed with a meat mixture.

Kate Bialy, of Decatur, said the cheese and potato pierogi were excellent. She also gave her stamp of approval to the kielbasa.

Kate said she's eaten pierogi before. Her father is of Polish descent, and sometimes her family has the pierogi that can be purchased from the freezer section of a grocery store.

But Kate and her mother, Karen, said there's no substitute for a homemade pierog.

"It's like having mom's apple pie versus a store-bought pie," Karen Bialy said.

Karen Bialy said she and her children came to the event at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Church in Lawrenceville for the food, as well as to support a good cause. All festival proceeds will benefit the Polish Catholic Apostolate.

Snellville resident Eileen Osinski said the secret to the festival is attending with multiple people. She said one person can wait in the food line, while someone else queues up to buy tickets -- the accepted form of currency at the festival.

Osinski came to the festival with her husband, Bill; her son, Mark; and Mark's girlfriend, Chmielewska. Almost an hour after they arrived, the family was only halfway through the line, but they were enjoying Polish beers and in good spirits. After purchasing the tickets, one member of the group stood in another line for 25 minutes to purchase the beverages.

"We're going to be really hungry by the time we get up there," Bill Osinski said.