South Jersey Polish festival ends after 43 years

September 7, 2012 8:26:44 AM PDT
Holy kielbasa! The Country Fair and Polish Festival has been canceled.

Rising costs have doomed the popular event, which traditionally has been held on the Sunday after Labor Day on the grounds of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

"Some of us cried when Mother (Dorota of the Little Servant Sisters) came and told us," Rosemarie Grabowski, the event's co-chairwoman, told the (http://on.cpsj.com/RjahF1) Courier-Post newspaper. "We were very upset, but the committee got together and made the decision. And to tell you the truth, it was like a 50-50 split."

For 43 years, people traveled from across the tri-state area to enjoy the festival at the Cropwell Road convent of the Polish-based religious order. Most came for the authentic food and entertainment, while others enjoyed the company of the nuns, who still dress in their traditional habits.

"What I think people will miss most is the Polish music and the dancers," said Grabowski. "That was one of the things that drew people. They could sit at a table in the shade for hours talking to friends on a nice Sunday afternoon."

She said the festival organizers had sought to recover costs through the sale of food. "But the entertainment is $1,000 here, another $1,500 there," said Grabowski, who also noted the expense of renting hundred of chairs and tables and of busing participants from the parking lot at Cherry Hill High School East.

"Each year we were recouping less and less," she said.

But the Little Servant Sisters aren't ready to give up just yet. Grabowski said they will replace the festival with a fundraising event on Sept. 14-15.

"There were just too many expenses associated with the festival," said Grabowski. "We had to scale it down."

The fundraiser will feature a large yard sale, and will offer a variety of hot and frozen Polish food, including pierogis, sauerkraut and babka.

The event also will offer children's games and prizes.

"Come and see what we have," said Grabowski. "You can park right on the grounds."

Proceeds will help support the nuns' missionary work.

Grabowski said she was unsure how much would be raised this year, particularly due to the sudden change away from the festival.

"It is something a lot of churches are being forced to do," said Grabowski, who noted the average age of the sisters at the Cherry Hill site is 80 to 85.

"Volunteers are starting to age and many of the younger sisters are away at convents in different countries."


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