Take a deep breath, close your eyes and just enjoy the pierogi.
They’re beautiful things, aren’t they? All warm and buttery and tasking like dinner at Babcia’s when you were young and life was good.
Of course, the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival, which starts today, is a happy time for so many people in the Wyoming Valley. We know and love our pierogi.
What’s sad is how close that tradition came to ruin.
As you may have heard, the festival ran into some legal problems last year. The Edwardsville Hometown Committee Inc., which has hosted the two-day community event in June since 2014, was threatened with a federal lawsuit by the chamber of commerce in some Midwestern town that has a trademark on the term “Pierogi Fest.”
Since that Midwestern town has already benefited from way more publicity than they deserve over this, we’re not even going to mention their name here.
All across America, burghs big and small have annual festivals designed to bring local folks together. Such traditions stretch back into the distant past, when the harvest or other landmarks of the agricultural year provided an excuse for people to gather and celebrate nature’s bounty — or at the very least surviving another year in a hostile world.
By the early 20th century, many of these had evolved into “Old Home Week” events hosted by growing towns and cities where former rural dwellers came together to remember what already seemed like a kinder, gentler agrarian past.
Over time, communities came up with any number of excuses to have a festival — often, though not always, centered around food. So even when throngs crowd Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square to celebrate the annual Fine Arts Fiesta, the food trucks aren’t far away.
Whether the official theme is arts and culture, local history, ethnic cuisine, some local landmark or just the fact that sometimes it’s warm enough to go outside, Americans love their local festivals.
Thus the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival might be relatively new, but it is by no means unique. Among community festivals, pierogi are certainly one of the more rare themes, but we remain dumbfounded and disappointed at how chamber people in said Midwestern town behaved.
Pierogi weren’t invented in wherever-it-was, Indiana. They followed Eastern European immigrants and their descendants to many parts of this country. That includes Luzerne County, which the U.S. Census Bureau has determined is the only U.S. county where Polish is the most prevalent ethnic group.
We acknowledge the Midwestern event’s much-ballyhooed trademark.
We doubt though, that their gathering — and that trademark — was endangered in any meaningful way by a “pierogi festival” nearly 700 miles away in Pennsylvania.
Of course, the Edwardsville group responded with its own suit, challenging the trademark violation and seeking compensation for damages done to the local festival’s sponsors. The end result: A confidential settlement was recently reached that paved the way for Edwardsville’s event to proceed.
Wouldn’t it have been so much nicer — and cheaper — if the Midwestern folks had reached out to Edwardsville and promoted some sister-city relationship celebrating their shared Polish heritage and love of pierogi?
Either way, Edwardsville still has its festival, and we hope you’ll all have a wonderful time.
— Times Leader