POSEN - The 62nd annual Posen Potato Festival begins today and the celebration is set to be a major boon for local businesses.
The festival brings in lots of people, especially former residents who return to visit, Posen Chamber of Commerce President Randy Idalski said. Some even bring friends to enjoy the polka music, dancing, midway and potato dishes. Area nonprofit organizations also benefit by using the festival to raise money.
Among them are the Rosary Sodality, Posen Area Fire and Rescue and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and Knights of Columbus, Idalski said. The Posen Citizens Academic Council is a relative newcomer, and in 2012 started hosting a 5K run-walk to raise money for Posen Consolidated Schools textbooks.
"We didn't have a clue how big it would be for them," he said. "They were really happy, and wanted to do it again this year. They're doing it again Saturday morning."
Posen's only gas station typically does well, as does a party store a few blocks away, Idalski said. Even the hardware store sees an increase in business, as festival campers typically stop in to pick up things they need.
As a village with a strong Polish heritage, polka music and food inspired by the homeland are an important part of the festival, Idalski said. Srodek's vendor from Hamtramck, a Detroit-area city famous for its own Polish heritage, will be selling sausage and other authentic foods in the polka tent.
Musicians who come to play the festival also are impressed in how many young people can hold their own on the dance floor, Idalski said.
"To see the young kids out there that not only dance the polka but dance the polka correctly is pretty neat," he said.
Potatoes are a big part of the festival, even after it was moved to the beginning of the harvest season, Idalski said. The celebration used to be held in late October, but the weather frequently didn't cooperate. Now, local potato farmers and farm employees might work the fields by day and come out to celebrate at night. Or, they'll come to the festival and head straight to work.
Either way, area potato farmers appreciate the support, and support the festival in their own ways, Idalski said.
For a town with a population of around 230, the potato festival is a big event, Idalski said. He's seen other small town celebrations go by the wayside, but not this one.
"It's such a unique thing to see a town our size put on such a big festival," he said. "There's lots and lots and lots of hours that go into it by not only the board members but the volunteers. Everybody has to come together and click as a unit, and they do."
For a full schedule of events, check out the insert in the Wednesday edition of The News.