And the Kashubian Capital Centennial in Winona

One fine summer day this year the Pomeranians will march.

A great crowd gathers to observe the button-eyed fluffballs circle around Sobieski Park. When the Poms at the front of the pack set foot, the polka band begins to play. The bulbous tuba and trinkling accordion intertwine with the sound of a thousand tiny nails tippy-tapping across the concrete. This is the music of Winona.

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The Poms, having been properly honored by starting off the procession, are followed by cotton swab Bichons and slobbering Labs and arched Whippets and mixed mutts. Any dogs may join the Poms in this promenade. The crowd gushes at the awesome display of canine camaraderie.

The Poms need no explanation for this special treatment. They receive it regularly from their masters already. But why has the city of Winona chosen to appreciate a particular toy dog this May?

“Pomeranians share something in common with a lot of the people around town,” said Tim Breza, co-chair of the Kashubian Capital Centennial. “We’re both from the Kashubian region of Poland. A lot of families, my own included, immigrated to Winona from Northern Poland starting in the 1850s. We’re proud of our roots, and the Pomeranian is a recognizable symbol of Polish heritage.

“The year 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the Stake Wars. They birthed the regional boundaries of modern Poland, the Kashubian region, and the part of Pomerania where Winona’s sister city Bytów is located. As the Kashubian Capital of America we originally planned a year-long series of special events, workshops and cultural exchanges in honor of the centennial. We had to postpone that for COVID reasons, but now as things have calmed down we’re working hard to offer as many events as we originally planned – with proper safety precautions, of course.”

The Poms don’t get to have all the fun during the Kashubian Capital Centennial. At the time of writing Tim and his team are also planning the Jeny Kochany Festival, a daylong polka jamboree tentatively featuring the likes of The Jolly Jammers and the Chmielewski Funtime Band. In Levee Park on the bank of the Mississippi festivalgoers can also enjoy live Polish dancing, shop among local craft vendors (the greater Winona area is widely regarded for the skill of its craftspeople), and devour delicious Polish things.

You will find even more delicious Polish things at the Smaczne Jablka Festival this autumn. “Smaczne Jablka” means “Tasty Apples,” and the fresh fruit will be baked into pies, encased in caramel, and ciderized for the public good. It wouldn’t be a real Polish feed without kielbasa, cabbage rolls, pierogi, dumplings, and fish in various states of pickled and smoked – and of course polka music, and especially beer, supplied by a to be determined local brewery. 

The Kashubian Capital Centennial is offering plenty of ways to frolic this year, but also to learn about the Polish people. You can see the things they brought with them, listen to stories about their diaspora at the Polish museum, and explore the city they helped to build. The park that the Poms will descend upon is surrounded by the founding Poles’ original shotgun houses, and their modest stores and churches still stand. All of downtown Winona is beautiful, on that note, with old Yankee Victorians and a main street by the water that is brimming with nice local shops.

Winona is just two hours downriver of the Twin Cities. Make a day of it to go and see the March of the Pomeranians or any of the Kashubian Capital Centennial’s other special events throughout the year. You can learn what is lined up at kcc2020.org.

 

By David Scheller