Maspeth Federal Savings, Newtown Historical Society, Juniper Park Civic Association and the Knockdown Center teamed up on April 9th to sponsor a free Polish Music Festival as part of a year-long series of events honoring the 375th Anniversary of the founding of Maspeth. The event was organized by Christina Wilkinson, Kim Caruana, Tony Nunziato and Daniel Kurzyna.
“Maspeth Federal Savings is proud to support this community event celebrating Polish music and heritage,” said Thomas Rudzewick, the bank’s President and CEO.
Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra, winner of 18 Grammy Awards, headlined the event. The band’s special guest vocalist for the afternoon was Eddie Biegaj. Another guest musician, Chris Caffery of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, rocked out on guitar during 2 numbers. Several couples chose to dance while the rest of the 150 people in the crowd simply sat back in the sunlit room and enjoyed the 3-set concert.
The afternoon festivities at the Knockdown Center were emceed by the very popular long-time polka DJ, Bill Shibilski. The children of the Wianek Polish Folk Dance Company, under the direction of Izabella Kobus-Salkin, delighted the crowd by performing two songs and two dances in colorful traditional Polish costumes. Gary Colter served as DJ before the show and during intermissions.
“Maspeth as we know it today is a wonderful town largely because of the contributions of the many Polish people who settled here and continue to live here,” said Christina Wilkinson, President of the Newtown Historical Society.
Robert Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said, “We are happy that we were able to bring a great afternoon of entertainment to the people of Maspeth in celebration of the town’s 375th anniversary.” The civic association and historical society produced an exhibit highlighting the history of the Polish people of Maspeth which was on display throughout the event.
In addition to the entertainment, free refreshments were available, donated by Kubus European Delicatessen, Frank’s Deli and Continental Pastry. A traditional Polish Easter basket, donated by the Newtown Historical Society and Enchanted Florist, served as the door prize. The big winner was Agnes Zgorzelski. Peter Erdelyi and Lisa Mei took home Jimmy Sturr CDs after winning an informal dance contest.
Short speeches were given by invited dignitaries including Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, radio personality and Guardian Angels founder, Curtis Sliwa and Fr. Miroslaw Podymniak, pastor of St. Adalbert’s Church, the first Polish congregation in the area, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The Frank Kowalinski Post No. 4 of the Polish Legion of American Veterans was represented by WWII vet John Kempisty. Sturr publicly recognized the German musical group, die Schlauberger, who had stopped by to take in the band’s last set after performing nearby, as well as Carole Golis, founder of Maspeth’s Polonaise Folk Dancers, who was in attendance.
Near the end of the performance, three couples wished to dance the Krakowiak, and the band happily accommodated their request.
Overall, it was a fun-filled, family-friendly event. We’ll be bringing more great live entertainment to you this summer during the annual Juniper Valley Park Summer Concert series.