PLYMOUTH — For 15 years, the Plymouth Alive Original Kielbasa Festival has been about connections — to the history of the town, its people, its schools, its neighborhoods and its businesses.
Another connection that arrived on Plymouth’s Main Street in July 2017 is a new business — Polish Connection — at 171 E. Main St., in the space once occupied (speaking of connections) by Dwyer’s Lunch.
The husband-and-wife team of Frank and Marie Ondish own and operate Polish Connection and on Thursday they were getting ready for a busy weekend — the 15th annual Plymouth Alive Original Kielbasa Festival will be held Friday and Saturday on Main Street (Route 11).
“My mom and my grandmother used to make pierogis and piggies and haluski and kielbasa,” Marie, 47, said. “A couple of years ago we had a family reunion and everybody was talking about all of those great Polish dishes and somebody suggested we open a business.”
So Marie, a nurse at Timber Ridge Health Care Center, and Frank, who works in maintenance at Mayflower Crossings, decided to open Polish Connection. Their first location was at 5 W. Main St.
Since Marie and Frank both work full-time jobs, the restaurant is open only four days per week — Thursday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The restaurant serves pierogi, kielbasa, stuffed cabbage (piggies), haluski, potato pancakes and much more. It serves breakfast and lunch.
On Thursday, Marie’s father, Pete Rutkowski, was busy peeling potatoes — a lot of potatoes.
“I peeled 50 pounds yesterday in two hours flat,” he said. “I said when I hit one ton, I’m going to take a day off and go to Knoebels and ride the Bearcat.”
Rutkowski, 78, and his family hail from Flat Road in Plymouth. They love the town and they really love the Kielbasa Festival.
“It’s wonderful,” Rutkowski said of the festival. “It’s great for the town. It brings the town to life.”
Rutkowski said since the Agnes Flood of 1972, Plymouth’s landscape changed a lot, losing many businesses on Main Street.
“We have a lot of parking lots now,” he said.
Rutkowski knows people who come back to Plymouth every year for the Kielbasa Festival — many from out of state.
“I know a couple from California who come in every year for the festival,” he said. “They said they can’t get this good food out there. And people never forget the Valley with a Heart.”
Marie enjoys making all the dishes her mom and grandmother used to make.
“We offer most of the stuff I would want to make,” she said. “We’re trying to bring back the home-style setting. Nothing we have is store bought. It’s all made from scratch.”
Marie said she always adds mustard seeds to her kielbasa, and she is growing horseradish roots in her yard.
“We will have our own horseradish pretty soon,” she said.
Marie said Polish Connection is entered in the annual Kielbasa Contest, set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Plymouth American Legion on Center Avenue.
A drive down Main Street revealed a lot of stands and tents being put up as some of the more than 85 vendors prepare for the weekend. The bandshell at the former site of Plymouth High School has been erected. Another bandshell will be set up in the municipal parking lot between Center Avenue and Eno Street.
Terry Womelsdorf, chairman of Plymouth Alive, expects the two-day festival to be a huge success again.
“The important thing is that people can get some great food, listen and dance to great music and have a lot of fun,” he said. “And they can take a selfie with Mr. Kielbasa.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.