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Parish festival in Easthampton unites cultures, draws young and old

  • Bob Cadieux, left, and Andre Pontbriant man the grill during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bob Cadieux, left, and Andre Pontbriant man the grill during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kathy Zawacki dances with Tom Szumowski during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Kathy Zawacki dances with Tom Szumowski during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sue Plourd, behind counter, runs a raffle for stuffed animals during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Sue Plourd, behind counter, runs a raffle for stuffed animals during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • William Wisniewski holds his daughter, Mila, 5 months, during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    William Wisniewski holds his daughter, Mila, 5 months, during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nancy Lapointe fills out raffle tickets as Jessica Plourd collects money to win a wheel barrow full of food during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.JERREY ROBERTS

    Nancy Lapointe fills out raffle tickets as Jessica Plourd collects money to win a wheel barrow full of food during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Blaise Baker, 7, putts through a moving windmill, one of the games for children during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Blaise Baker, 7, putts through a moving windmill, one of the games for children during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tom Szumowski dances with Kathy Zawacki during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Tom Szumowski dances with Kathy Zawacki during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mary Newton, 94, holds a balloon sculpture given to her Mr. K the Balloon Man during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Church grounds in Easthampton. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mary Newton, 94, holds a balloon sculpture given to her Mr. K the Balloon Man during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Church grounds in Easthampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Cadieux, left, and Andre Pontbriant man the grill during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Kathy Zawacki dances with Tom Szumowski during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Sue Plourd, behind counter, runs a raffle for stuffed animals during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • William Wisniewski holds his daughter, Mila, 5 months, during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Nancy Lapointe fills out raffle tickets as Jessica Plourd collects money to win a wheel barrow full of food during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Blaise Baker, 7, putts through a moving windmill, one of the games for children during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Tom Szumowski dances with Kathy Zawacki during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart Church grounds in Easthampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Mary Newton, 94, holds a balloon sculpture given to her Mr. K the Balloon Man during the annual Our Lady of the Valley Parish Festival Sunday at the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Church grounds in Easthampton. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

But when temperatures soared to 93 degrees Sunday afternoon, no one seemed to mind that their plan had been foiled.

“God controls the weather,” event organizer Tom Brown, also vice president of retail banking at Easthampton Savings Bank, said with a shrug. “But it’s still a great day and a great turnout.”

At 2 p.m., Brown said he expected over a thousand people to attend before the party wrapped up at 6 p.m. On the grounds of the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Franklin Street, festival-goers munched plates of homemade food and kept cool with cold drinks while enjoying live music, dancing, fair games and kids activities from balloon animal-making to pony rides.

The festival has been held for three years, replacing the three separate parish festivals that Easthampton’s former Catholic churches held annually before merging to form the Our Lady of the Valley Parish in 2010. Each festival drew from the heritage of the three former churches, which were built by early Polish, French and Irish immigrants.

Brown said the young parish’s goal of unifying three communities into one was another reason for holding the festival in June as opposed to August, when the former festivals were held. “We’re working hard to create our own identity, and I think we’re finding it here,” he said.

The new identity was apparent in the food stand on the parish grounds, where parishioners volunteered to make and serve both French and Polish food.

Volunteers Richard and Diane Sadlowski said they’ve been shoveling Polish and French favorites onto plates for the last three years. “We’ve got it down to a pretty good science,” Richard Sadlowski said.

For the event, volunteers prepared the pounds of food during numerous cooking sessions in May and froze it until this weekend’s festival. The total included 2,628 potato and cheese pierogies, 1,940 cabbage pierogies, 18 large pans of lazy golumpkis, 10 large pans of kapusta and 48 French meat pies, he said.

Diane Sadlowski said the teamwork on the production line is key. “The Polish people were making the French meat pies and the French were making the pierogies and golumpkis,” she said.

And the homemade pierogies are always much better than those frozen ones in the grocery store, she said. “They’re made with a homemade recipe, not an industrial scale one,” she said. “And each one is individual. Each person has a different technique for pinching the dough, so you can tell who made each one.”

Mary Newton, 94, seemed cool as a cucumber despite the heat as she sat at a picnic table with some new friends she’d made, holding a flower made out of balloons.

“I’m 94 and every time they’ve had the festival, I’ve been here,” the Easthampton native said. “It’s an important part of the summer.”

She said that though the festival has changed over the years, the best parts are still the food, the raffles, and the people.

“It’s different, but it’s nice,” she said. “There are a lot of younger people now, more people with their children, and I think that’s nice.”

Jennifer Baker and her son, Walter, 4, waited in line for a balloon creation near the mini-golf game, which Walter named as his favorite. Baker said the best part of the day is visiting with people. “You see people here that you haven’t seen for a long time,” she said. She’s been coming to the festival for at least five years, but it’s more fun with a little one in tow, she said. “Then you get to do all the games with the kids, not by yourself,” she said.

Easthampton resident Harry Schumann sat in the shade of a tent, watching the Memories Band, which played classics from the 1950s and 1960s throughout the festival. He said he has made it to the festival every summer for eight years.

“We look forward to it every year,” he said. “You can come, have a beer or a drink, eat some Polish food, listen to music and watch people, maybe win a raffle prize.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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