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Dyngus Day!

Everyone's Polish on Dyngus Day; Buffalo a hub of activity
Posted By MATTHEW VAN DONGEN; Standard Staff
Posted 9 hours ago
Some call it the Mardi Gras of the Northeast.

Others call it Wet Monday.

But Dyngus Day is probably best-described as a gigantic Polish party in Buffalo: a plethora of polka, parades and pussy willow-waving flirts.

Oh, and don't forget the squirt guns.

"It's a spectacle, something everyone should do at least once," said Mike Ilnicki, a St. Catharines Polish-Canadian who headed to Buffalo Monday night for the traditional post-Lent celebration.

"It's a Polish festival, first and foremost. But everyone is Polish on Dyngus Day."

Dyngus Day historically celebrates the joy of Easter after the sombre, restrictive period of Lent. The spring folk celebration features flirtatious boys and girls throwing water and swatting each other with pussy willows.

The ritual has roots in several eastern European countries.

In Buffalo, however, Dyngus Day has morphed into an extravaganza attracting tens of thousands of Polish partyers to western New York - even if they're only Polish for a day.

"It's really a Polish-American phenomena," said Ilnicki, an executive member of the Canadian Polish Society in St. Catharines.

The celebration is fairly muted north of the border, but many local Polish-Canadians make an annual pilgrimage to Buffalo.

Ilnicki has made the trip every year for 15 years to what organizers call "the Largest Dyngus Day Celebration in the World."

"After my first visit, I was hooked," he said. "I know dozens of (Niagara) people who go down, every year."

This year's event faced a seasonal challenge: a winter-related shortage of willow swatches that threw organizers into "a pussy willow panic," according to the event website.

Luckily, Ilnicki and his wife didn't plan to engage in the pussy willow hanky-panky traditionally reserved for stick-swinging singles, or the water fights associated with Wet Monday.

He appreciates the nod to tradition, however - and stressed it's romance at its most respectful.

"People compare it to Mardi Gras, but obviously Mardi Gras has its naughty side," Ilnicki said.

"Dyngus Day is a more traditional sort of naughty. It's still family-friendly."

For Ilnicki, Dyngus Day stands out for its music.

"Polka always sounds better on Dyngus Day. I know that sounds a little corny, but on Dyngus Day, polka bands really seem to bring their A game."

The couple planned to head to the Leonard Post in Cheektowaga to party with polka stalwarts Phocus, Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push.

The venue is described on www.dyngusdaybuffalo.com as one of the most crowded Dyngus Day hotspots in Western New York.

"Literally, you can't move in there. It's shoulder to shoulder, face to face," Ilnicki said.

"It's where a lot of Canadians end up."

The Ilnicki's planned to visit several different festival halls and Dyngus Day events, but they couldn't possibly hit them all.

The event website lists more than 30 polka party pads, some offering free pussy willows and kielbasa, others selling water guns and all offering polka pizazz.

Hotspots in Buffalo's historic Polonia District are even linked by a free shuttle bus sponsored by Poland's Sobieski Vodka.

The official "piwo" of Dyngus Day, in case you're wondering, is the Polish beer Tyskie.

The city also hosts a Dyngus Day parade and converts its historic fireboat, the Edward M. Cotter, into the "world's largest Dyngus day squirt gun."


Re: Dyngus Day!

>a plethora of polka, parades and pussy willow-waving flirts.

oh no...
written by people who read ... word-by-word ... from left to right ...
mildly (and unexpectedly) startling for those whose eyes jump around, forming unintended connections ...

Re: Dyngus Day!

Yes, the hyphen is on the wrong side of willow.

Re: Dyngus Day!

We visited a friend in a nearby town and found young boys taking water from a river and chucking it on people. Thankfully we appeared to be to old for targets .

I didn't see anyone with willows.

Re: Dyngus Day!

Neither my wife or I have never seen willows being used on this day. Maybe it is a Polish American tradition?