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Bernadette Pawlak - Dyngus Day Parade Director

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Bernadette Pawlak: Dyngus Day Parade Director

Bernadette Pawlak grew up on the Buffalo-Cheektowaga border, in a primarily Polish Catholic neighborhood whose children were immersed in Polish language and culture. So it’s fitting that she should find herself in charge of the annual Dyngus Day parade, which kicks off on Monday, April 25 at the Broadway Market and wends its way to the Central Terminal.

In a nutshell, what is Dyngus Day?

Dyngus Day is the traditional day after Easter when the solemness of the Lenten Season is over. It is the Polish-American holiday which has grown over the years to symbolize the culture and heritage that we all share. Everybody wants to be Polish on Dyngus Day.

How did you get involved in the Dyngus Day parade?

Five years ago, my late husband, Russell, was the president of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, and I was the public relations director. In a discussion with Eddy Dobosiewicz and Marty Biniasz, these three gentlemen decided that it was time for a major revival and expansion of the Dyngus Day traditions. Thus, this unique parade was born! I became involved in the parade in its third year, when its growth became magnified. Since then, I continue to carry on my late husband’s dream and help in expanding the parade.

What can we expect from this year’s parade and the surrounding festivities?

This year, the parade has again grown not only in size but in its horizons. Increasingly, we see participation from outside the Western New York area. The number of entries has also increased. Many participants are groups of friends and families, both of Polish and want-to-be Polish ethnicity. I would like to see the parade become a tourist destination much like Mardi Gras is the place to go before Lent, so Dyngus Day in Buffalo is where you want to be after Lent. This year, the increasing popularity of the “Pussywillow Pass” allows individuals to hop on on and off shuttle buses from one venue to another, experiencing a multitude of venues, bands, libations, food and parties! All of this begins as early as noon, but the serious party-goers will begin about 4pm, view the parade at 5pm, and continue enjoying the festivities until 1am!

Increasingly, Dyngus Day has begun to attract non-Polish revelers. What should those of us unfamiliar know about Polish customs attached to the event?

Probably the most popular customs would be the use of pussywillows and squirt guns. Traditionally, these were used back in Poland to attract the attention of a member of the opposite sex that you fancied. The boys would chase the girls and tap them lightly on the legs with the pussywillows and sprinkle them with water or cheap perfume. In addition, no Dyngus Day celebration would be complete without traditional food such as pierogi, kielbasa, and golobki, along with beer, vodka, mead, cidre, and krupnik. (Please don’t drink and drive!)

Any Polish phrases that might come in handy? And can you help our readers to pronounce some of the beer brands they’ll be ordering?

Piwo (beer) brands are important! You need to try Tyskie, Lech, Zywiec, Okocim, and Tatra. Also, the Polish vodka brands to try are Sobieski and Wyborowa. The most important Polish phrase on Dyngus Day is “Sto lat!”—May you live 100 years!

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