Beyond the Byline: Celebrating kielbasa and much more

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Bill O’Boyle -

PLYMOUTH — It’s time for the annual celebration in my hometown.

The 15th annual Plymouth Alive Original Kielbasa Festival will be held Friday and Saturday, Aug. 10-11, on the Main Street I walked and hung out on during my early years.

Maybe I can’t go home to the Plymouth I grew up in, but the memories will never fade.

That’s why this annual event is more of a pilgrimage for many Shawnee Indians who return every year to relive those glory days. They meet on the sidewalks and in the restaurants to tell those stories, to laugh and to cry, but mostly laugh.

It happens every year. People who live near and far get together to enjoy the festival and to wax nostalgic about Old Shawnee and those halcyon days.

I certainly have related many of those stories in this space over the years. And while my memories are somewhat confined to Plymouth, they are not unlike the stories of every other small town along the Susquehanna River. Those were the days of family and friends, of neighborhoods and unlocked doors and of smiling faces on porches as kids played in the street.

The Kielbasa Festival, to me, was one of the greatest ideas to ever be conceived. It showed that even in times when Plymouth had taken on a different look, just like many towns that have seen increased crime, that old small-town feeling can be restored by something as simple as celebrating another great invention — kielbasa.

Even for two short days in August, it is well worth it to visit Plymouth, walk its altered Main Street and, especially if you grew up there, remember what once was. You will see people you haven’t seen in years and you will experience the revitalization of “the good old days.”

And you are guaranteed to eat well. Kielbasa will be everywhere, as will other Polish delicacies. But the festival does not discriminate — other ethnic dishes will be offered — and there will be vendors of all sorts and lots of fun for kids. Plus ice cream.

And there will be music — rock, country and a few polka bands will grace two bandshells in town. A parade will march down Main Street and will feature glorious antique cars, fire engines and Kielbasa Man in disco attire, celebrating this year’s theme of “Stayin’ Alive.”

On Wednesday, I attended a meeting of Plymouth Alive and I marveled at the organization of the committee. Terry Womelsdorf has a checklist that he reviews and committee members give updates on the status of their particular responsibility: either complete, near complete or in need of some help.

It’s a fantastic committee. The members are all committed to making the Kielbasa Festival a success. They all deserve accolades for the hard work they have done over the years and continue to do.

Among the committee members are Holly Spece, a young woman who has created the Plymouth Youth Organization. The group holds several events throughout the year for the benefit of the town’s young people. Spece even has young people get involved as volunteers for other events to foster a feeling of community service.

Seated near Spece was Clyde Peters, a current member of Plymouth borough council, and a Vietnam veteran who performed heroic acts “in country.” I’ve written about Clyde in the past. Clyde is the youngest of 18 children. I will tell you that when we were kids, if a fight broke out, you had better hope to be on Clyde’s side of the battle.

When Clyde was in Vietnam, his unit was ambushed. As they tried to retreat, one of his friends was shot. Clyde stopped to help, but the man told him to keep moving. Clyde would hear none of it. He picked up the fallen soldier, threw him on his back and carried him to safety. And by the way, Clyde took a bullet as he was performing this act of bravery.

Many years later, Clyde attended a reunion of his unit — it was the first one Clyde went to. A man came over to him and asked him to come to his table. There he introduced Clyde to his wife, children and grandchildren. It was the man Clyde saved in Vietnam.

The man said to his family, “If it weren’t for Clyde, none of you would be here today.”

Holly, Clyde, Terry and the committee are solid people from a solid town.

An awesome committee and an awesome festival in a still awesome town.

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]