Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: Polish Picnic at St. Joseph Church
PITTSFIELD -- John Arasimowicz, the longtime chairman of the Polish Picnic Committee, has an unusual measuring stick when it comes to estimating crowds: kielbasa.
"We started out with 125 pounds," he said Sunday afternoon. "And we ran out by noon. So we sent out for 50 more pounds. And we've run out again, so we just sent out for 25 more pounds."
It is the most kielbasa consumed at a Polish picnic in Arasimowicz's tenure as chairman, which is more than 25 years. It is thus, by his estimate, the largest crowd under his oversight, as well.
His numerical estimate was close to 3,000 people on Sunday.
"We had people lining up at the food tent at 9 a.m., waiting for it to open," he said.
The final food count, in case anyone is keeping track, was 175 pounds of kielbasa, 5,000 pierogies and 3,000 golabkis.
Arasimowicz was quick to point out that he is by no means a one-man show.
"Without my volunteer staff, this doesn't get off the ground," he said. "We have people working up to 10 weeks before the picnic making the food. On Thursday and Friday alone, we made the golabkis."
Which is one of the secrets of the popularity of the Polish food at the Polish picnic. Some of the chefs are in their 80s and 90s. And these pierogies, golabkis and kielbasas are made from old family recipes.
"We have four generations of families working here," said Arasimowicz.
"This is all about family," said Fred Trzcinka, 79, of Pittsfield. "You see people you haven't seen in a while. You get to say, ‘Hey, Joe, how's your wife, your mother?' Whatever. The food is great, the Polish bands are great. It's a fun afternoon."
Suddenly, a young woman came up to Trzcinka and hugged him.
"There's my girl," he said.
The young woman was Caitlyn Janchuk, 22, who happened to be Trzcinka's grandniece. Jachuk was working at the picnic, as she has been since she was 5 years old. Her mother and father work at the picnic, as do her aunt and uncle.
"It's one big family," said Janchuk with a laugh. "We've all been working here forever."
Andrew Sondrini, 13, has been coming here since he was a very small child with his family. Sondrini is Italian on his father's side, and Polish on his mother's side. He didn't have any pierogies or golabkis with him, just French fries and a soda.
"I don't know how long I've been coming here, but it's a tradition," he said.
"I try to come every year," said former City Councilman Pete White. "It's a great chance to see people you haven't seen in a while. It's really an incredible community event. And the food is great. Even if you don't really like Polish food, and I can't imagine why, there's a lot of other good things to eat here. And everyone likes the music."
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