The billboards are up all over town. Next week is the Saint Hedwig Polish Festival. No, you won’t find it in the school yard at 408 South Harrison Street where the festival began 52 years ago. Arts, crafts, and homemade goods got “Seafood Under the Stars” added to it somewhere in the sixties, and then POLISH KITCHEN set up with a dedication to sharing Polish culture and nutrition, and now onto the Riverfront extravaganza which is really just a microcosm of the rich life of the Hedwig parish and their youth groups.
What you will still find at 408 South Harrison Street is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The church behind the October festival planned for next week is named after Saint Hedwig. She was sometimes called Jadwiga, and she was married to Duke Henry of Silesia. He was the head of the Polish Royal family in medieval Poland. While he was the ruler of Poland he founded the Cistercian Convent, hospitals, and monasteries. When her husband died, Hedwig made peace with her seven children and took the vows of a nun to enter the Cistercian Convent. After she died, many miracles were reported as a result of her ministry. The Catholic Church canonized her in 1266.
The church was in control of a powerful tool in medieval Poland. They were the writers. Their parchments and scribes created manuscripts which clarified the need for libraries. Gregorian Chorales were sung in places like Saint Mary’s Basilica in Krakow (started in 1321) and Saint John’ s Cathedral in Wroclaw begun in (1244). These Romanesque inspirations for Saint Hedwig were identified by their hugeness, their thick walls, round arches, large towers, and decorative expressions of symbols of faith. Here on South Harrison Street the life and the times of Saint Hedwig have been transplanted to Wilmington, Delaware.
What is going to happen at the Saint Hedwig Festival for five straight days next week? You can dance all night – if you like – to favorite Polkas and traditional American dance music. The midway has a merry- go- round and other gravity defying discussions of movement and light. Admission to their festival is free as is parking.
Polish food is a mixture of Eastern European and German culinary preparations. The diet is rich in meat, and side dishes often include boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. Pierogi is their most famous noodle, although, there are a variety of just such products in different shapes and sizes. Kotlet schabowy (breaded pork) and Pork Kielbasa are just some of the dishes you should expect from the concessions.
Will there be any Polish jokes told at the festival? Poland was easily invaded throughout European history because of their lack of geographical protection. Many believed Polish people were not smart because they were so easily defeated on the field of battle. Today Poland is the largest country in EU. They did not suffer a GDP decline like the rest of the world in 2009. The growth rate of their economy in 2010 was 3.8%, one of the best in Europe. Ernst and Young have pointed out that their laws are favorable to entrepreneurs. Therefore, Poland is rated 7th in the world for investment attractiveness.
Polish bands will no doubt enjoy putting on their shows at the Riverfront festival next week.