Dyngus Day lives on despite coronavirus with online celebration April 13


With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, event cancellations have seemed unavoidable. However, Clevelanders will continue to celebrate the ending of Lent on Dyngus Day, though much differently than originally expected.

This year marks the event’s 10-year anniversary, though in-person polka dancing, piwo (Polish beer) drinking, and paczki eating will be postponed until a later date. Until then, virtual Dyngus festivities will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, April 13, as planned, except for being online on Facebook and YouTube.

DJ Kishka - Dyngus Day 2018Dyngus Day traditionally takes place the Monday following Easter, aka wet Monday, and Cleveland has been one of its primary supporters since 2010, when DJ Kishka first brought the holiday to Happy Dog in Cleveland. An avid polka music supporter, Kishka is the mastermind behind “Polka Happy Hour” at the Gordon Square pub, where his audience ranges from children to grandparents.

“I learned my shtick at Happy Dog,” Kishka says. “I listened to my dad’s and grandfather’s polka records, and played for older folks who grew up to polka, and people’s parents who met at polka dances. I also play for the younger hipster crowd.”

A few years into his Happy Dog gig, Kishka was invited to Buffalo’s annual Dyngus Day celebration. He brought his family along, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. While there, he knew he had to celebrate this polka holiday in Cleveland.

Dyngus Day 2018“My family and I had a blast, and I wanted to make it a Cleveland holiday,” he said. “We live here, and I knew we could make it unique.”

Much has changed since Cleveland’s first Dyngus Day a decade ago. While our city’s first celebration was successful (it attracted more than 1,000 people), Kishka’s event is now wildly popular. Rather than hosting a mere “polka celebration,” he now has to obtain a permit, and consider logistics, such as security and port-a-potties.

“It’s become so popular by word of mouth,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to how fun our festival is.”

While he didn’t have to fret too much over these things due to COVID-19 this year, hosting a virtual celebration proved to be just as challenging, but it will definitely be worth watching. Scheduled performers have recorded their segments in advance, the accordion contest is still on, and Lidia Trempe, the owner of Rudy's Strudel and Bakery in Parma, will teach viewers how to make pierogies in the comfort of their own homes.

“If anything,” said Kishka, “It’ll be something to do on Dyngus Day other than staring at a wall.”

Follow at home on Facebook at @DyngusDayCTown. Post your photos or videos of your home celebration with the hashtag #DyngusDay2020 and be in the running to win a Dyngus Day Cleveland 10th anniversary gift package.

Read more articles by Dana Shugrue.

Dana Shugrue, a senior at John Carroll University, is a regular contributor to FreshWater Cleveland. When she’s not in class, she devotes her time to the Carroll News, writing for the Arts & Life section every week and managing online content. Dana is also a media intern for Empowered&Poised, a start-up company that aims to empower young women through social, physical and mental components. When she graduates, Dana hopes to land a permanent position in the editorial field.  
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