The first few months of the year all give us a reason to party: January has New Year's, February has Mardi Gras and March has St. Patrick's Day. But April had nothing to get us through to Memorial Day until DJ Kishka got involved.
Last year, the man who has built a following spinning and mixing old polka records while wearing a fake beard and suspenders brought Dyngus Day to Cleveland and 1,500 people showed up to celebrate with him. The party returns to Gordon Square on Monday, April 9, but this year it'll include more of the neighborhood bars and restaurants.
"It's like the Polish Mardi Gras," explains Kishka, better known as Justin Gorski. In Poland, Dyngus Day, celebrated on the Monday after Easter, marks the conclusion of the restrictive time of Lent with Polish music, beer and cuisine.
After Kishka performed at the world's largest Dyngus Day celebration in Buffalo in 2010, he says he was inspired to bring a similar celebration home to Cleveland.
"They've got an old train depot that's empty and they put up a stage and we were just blown away," he says. "We thought, We don't need Buffalo. We've got enough Polish people and ethnic people. ... After that year, we just started making plans."
More than 5,000 people are expected to turn out for this year's Dyngus Day celebration. It'll kick off at 11 a.m at Stone Mad, but you'll be able to get Polish cuisine and beer at XYZ the Tavern, Spice Kitchen and Bar, Happy Dog, Parkview Nite Club and others located in what Kishka calls the "Polish Triangle." Kishka will be spreading Dyngus Day cheer throughout the area all day. He ultimately wants to turn the celebration into a citywide event.
"I've got this dream of jumping out of a giant accordion cake or some crazy float in years to come," he says.
Just make sure you don't start so early you miss Big Chuck Schodowski's 5 p.m. crowning of Ms. Dyngus at the Parkview, followed by an accordion march up West 58th Street to Detroit Avenue. If you own an accordion and can play "Beer Barrel Polka," you're welcome to participate, Kishka says. And, by the way, so is everyone else. "Anyone who wants to come play an instrument, bang on the drums, or pots and pans, or even a keg, can join in."