Photo Gallery: In its 27th year, Pulaski Parade still charms the crowds in Northampton

Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — The 27th annual Pulaski Day Parade Monday was a special treat for Smith College student Jess Marlor.

Born in Poland, Marlor has lived in the United States for most of her life, but her Polish heritage has been vital, so being witness to the yearly celebration dedicated to Polish revolutionary war hero General Casimir Pulaski and the appreciation of Polish heritage and culture was meaningful on many levels.

“It was so nice to see people here speaking Polish with each other. That’s a language that I really only hear at home, so it’s very close to my heart,” Marlor said. “I feel like I’m already family when I hear Polish being spoken and read Polish on the signs.”

Marlor was in the throng of people drawn to the downtown Monday morning to witness the colorful, joyous spectacle that is the Pulaski Day Parade.

Participants were a sea of brightly colored costumes and flags. Women dressed in traditional Polish garb wore black or red velvet corsets intricately embroidered with brightly colored flowers and sequins over loose-fitting white blouses. Flowing skirts and shawls printed with rose blossoms grazed the tops of red and yellow boots, and floral wreaths and braids adorned many heads.

The sun was shining as people gathered along King and Main streets, where an hour before the parade was to begin, buses filled with uniformed band members and musical instruments began rolling up to the former Blyda Ford-Northampton Honda lot on King Street. A pair of draft horses stamped impatiently at the back of the lot, hitched to a red wagon representing the Three County Fair Horse Team. Men, women, boys and girls in traditional Polish costume gathered with their church, school and other groups and waited for the event to begin.

Another set of marching groups gathered outside of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, awaiting the conclusion of the traditional Pulaski Day Mass. Aneta Sucharski, also known as Miss Polonia Massachusetts, stood by her chariot, a convertible seventies ’70s-era Pontiac GrandVille painted a sparkling bronze, while the Silver Dolphin Drill team from Groton Naval Submarine School in Connecticut practiced the drills that they would perform along the parade route.

Re-enactors of the Polish Winged Hussars needed the extra time to get into costume before the parade set off as they secured arm plates, neck pieces, saber sheaths and helmets with numerous buckles and straps.

During the 17th century, Winged Hussars were soldiers who made up Poland’s cavalry, donned elaborate suits of armor and carried gilded lances. They wore feathered wings on their backs which were said to create an intimidating sound as they rode into battle.

“These were the greatest knights in their time in the 17th century,” said re-enactor Walter Hoszkiewicz of Greenfield, N.H., as he adjusted the costume of fellow re-enactor, Eryk Jadaszewski of Dublin, N.H. Finishing touches on the costumes included thick fur hats, ostrich and peacock plumes, and of course, the signature feathered wings of the Hussar.

The parade, led by state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, as grand marshal and a bannered truck bearing the name of the Polish Heritage Committee, included a float carrying the Silver Moon Band playing a polka serenade as well as numerous other floats, a single horse and buggy bearing those who could not walk the parade route, war veterans, community groups, and the 10th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The militia fired muskets at points along the route, delighting the crowd and causing those who had not expected the noise to jump.

An especially lively burst of celebration came from Springfield schoolchildren who sang songs in Polish.

At the ceremony in Pulaski Park afterward, the Rev. Adam Czarnecki of St. Valentine Polish National Catholic Church gave the invocation. “Freedom without courage is impossible. General Pulaski made courage a way of life,” he told the crowd. “Let us rededicate ourselves to the tradition of courage.”

Keynote speaker Marcin Bolec, president and co-founder of the Polish American Networking Organization, encouraged everyone to educate themselves. Born in Poland, Bolec moved to the U.S. in 1992.

“How can we honor Gen. Pulaski? Know your heritage,” he said. “I think it’s very important to know where you came from. Today in remembering Pulaski, we remember all those millions of Poles and Americans who fought and died.”

Other speakers were Mayor David J. Narkewicz, who proclaimed Oct. 14 Casimir Pulaski day in Northampton, and state Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton.

“If you want to learn about courage and faith and perseverance, turn off your televisions for a couple of hours, go online, and plug in the words Warsaw and World War II, and learn about how the Polish people in Warsaw with virtually no ammunition, no guns, no big army backing them, fought against a great military force and had faith, and not only persevered but prospered,” said Kocot.

Rosenberg participated in the traditional “Laying of the Wreath” ceremony, and the crowd joined singer Lynne Ann Parsons in a rendition of “God Bless America.”


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