PIctured from left, Faye Walker, Cass County Commissioner Bob Ziliak, Pat Shepard and Cass County Commissioner Johnie Rodebush help dish out hot, Polish-style dinners during a Dyngus Day celebration at the Greater Niles Senior Center Monday night. (Daily Star Photo/JESSICA SIEFF)
PIctured from left, Faye Walker, Cass County Commissioner Bob Ziliak, Pat Shepard and Cass County Commissioner Johnie Rodebush help dish out hot, Polish-style dinners during a Dyngus Day celebration at the Greater Niles Senior Center Monday night. (Daily Star Photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

Archived Story

Dyngus Day: politics and Polish sausage

Published 9:10am Tuesday, April 6, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

Sausage and sauerkraut were on the menu to mark the celebration of Dyngus Day at the Greater Niles Senior Center on Monday.

More than an estimated 125 people turned out to take part in the senior center’s celebration of the holiday which has a history of combining Polish heritage with politics, especially in Michiana.

“You hear a lot of stories about it,” Cass County Commissioner Johnie Rodebush said.

According to the official Web site for the holiday as celebrated in South Bend: “The day marks the official beginning to launch the year’s political primary campaign season (particularly among Democrats) – often from within the West Side Democratic Club, the M.R. Falcons Club and local pubs and fraternal halls, where buying drinks is favored over handshaking.

“Notable politicos who have celebrated Dyngus Day in South Bend include the late Robert Kennedy, former Gov. Joe Kernan, Sen. Evan Bayh, former U.S. Rep. John Brademas, Crumstown Mayor Mike Yarbrough, former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer and former President Bill Cinton.”

At the senior center, Rodebush was joined by fellow Cass County Commissioner Bob Ziliak and Berrien County Commissioner John LaMore.

But LaMore said his presence was a sign of support for the senior center itself and not a stint at politicking.

“I’m here to support the senior center,” he said.

LaMore added when he was first voted in as commissioner he made a commitment, “I said I would be a voice for our community” and “keep seniors aware of everything going on at the county.”

Sandy Klekowski, a frequent passionate supporter of the senior center also spoke to the effect that the Dyngus Day celebration was more about the community than anything else.

“We don’t have politicians here,” she said. “We have hardworking people here. These are our friends talking to us as friends.

“I’m so grateful to them,” she continued, speaking about the senior center. “They welcome you, it’s like family. They’ve all made me feel like family.”

Indeed there was less hand shaking and more evidence of casual conversation than anything else.
The proceeds from the $6 dinners will go to the center’s building fund, Rodebush said.

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