Pulaski Day Parade organizers put out call for participants

  • Just before stepping off for the 2015 Northampton Pulaski Day parade, Maya Garncarz, 5, leads Anna Robak by the hand toward a waiting wagon that Maya chose to ride in instead of walking the route with their Saturday School of Polish Language contingent. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/25/2018 12:07:48 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The 32nd annual Pulaski Day Parade in Northampton will once again celebrate Polish heritage, as well as the Polish Revolutionary War hero the event commemorates.

“The Polish pride in the community needs to be kept up,” Angela Fydenkevez, one of the parade’s co-chairs, said.

Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman who fought on the side of the Colonies in the American Revolution. Rising to the rank of brigadier general, he is also known as, ” the father of American cavalry.” He died fighting the British in the Battle of Savannah.

Pulaski is a cultural hero for Polish-Americans, many of whom settled in western Massachusetts after immigrating from Poland in the 20th century. The parade will take place on Monday, Oct. 8.

The events of parade day will begin with a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. The parade will begin at the church following the Mass at 11 a.m., with a route that will go through downtown Northampton and end at Pulaski Park, where a program will honor the late general, as well as other elements of the festival. The main speaker will be author Stephanie Kraft.

Although the deadline for committing to march in the parade is Sept. 26, Fydenkevez said that one can still get into the parade after this date.

“We do not turn anybody away,” she said. “We will gladly fit you into the parade.”

Still, Jerry Budgar, another of the parade’s co-chairs, said that he would prefer people reach out to him ahead of time about their intention to march, at gbudgar@rcn.com, or at 413-584-2964, as it makes things easier.

“We have a lot of people that we haven’t heard from yet,” Budgar said.

Fydenkevez said the parade will feature a number of bands, as well as women and children in traditional Polish costumes. Miss Polonia will also be in attendance.

In addition to Pulaski, the event will also honor the local Polish community, Polish heritage month and the 100th anniversary of Polish independence following World War I.

Budgar said that the parade’s grand marshals will be announced closer to the parade date.

Fydenkevez said that it is important for young people to connect with their Polish roots before the generation that knows about them is gone.

“It’s time to learn those things,” Fydenkevez said.

She said that she had this experience when she connected with her Polish heritage after running bingo at the former St. John Cantius Church, which had many Polish participants. However, when this occurred, her own grandparents had already passed.

“I wished that I learned from them ahead of time,” she said.

Fydenkevez did note, however, that she had gotten to experience her grandmother’s custom of always having enough food around to feed guests.

Budgar is primarily of Lithuanian-Jewish extraction, although his grandfather’s immigration papers said he immigrated from Poland and Lithuania. Nevertheless, he has volunteered with the parade for the last five to six years.

“I’m a very ecumenical person,” Budgar said, on how he came to volunteer with the parade. “You help out your neighbors.”

A third-generation Northampton resident, Budgar said the Polish community has always been good to him and his family, and that he grew up in Ward 3 in Northampton when it was primarily known as the Polish ward.

“They were wonderful,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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