Among Omaha’s Catholic parish festivals, St. Stanislaus Polish Festival is the largest.
After about 40 years of practice, the parish continues to break its own records in attendance and the amount of food served. That was the case again this year, with the festival held Aug. 19.
These numbers — from festival organizers Tom Jodlowski, Denise Baratta and Sam Canova — tell the story of the festival’s success:
10,000 to 15,000 visitors: They stop throughout the day. Many have Polish heritage. The rest become Polish while they are there, Baratta said.
At least 300 volunteers: St. Stanislaus is a relatively small parish, but the church recruits its grade school alumni, family members and friends, including non-Catholics.
20,462 pierogis: The church served up three different kinds of the Polish dumpling-like food. The one with a sauerkraut filling was the most popular. About 9,000 of those were sold, said Jodlowski, who was in charge of food. Garlic potato is rising in popularity; the sweet cheese — the hardest to make — also was sold by the thousands, Jodlowski said.
The church can’t keep up with the demand for the pierogis and other Polish food. “No matter how much they make every year, people eat all the food,” Canova said.
Forty to 60 pierogi chefs: They showed up every Wednesday night over seven summer weeks to make and freeze the pierogis. “It’s a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun,” Jodlowski said.
3,800 golabkis: Golabki is a Polish meat-filled cabbage roll. There’s a golabki, team, too. They met just a day or so before the festival because the golabki were not frozen.
940 pounds of smoked Polish sausage: That amounts to 3,760 sausages, which were made at a local meat shop, Jodlowski said.
Two blocks: That’s how far the line for food stretched during three peak hours. Festival-goers stood along 41st Street from J Street to L Street. But no one complained, Jodlowski said. “There is no other place anywhere in Omaha where you can get this food.”
Noon to 8 p.m. Those are the official festival hours, but workers started serving food about 11:15 a.m., Canova said. Diners were waiting outside the school by 10:45 a.m. Sunday.
124 kegs of beer: Plus 74 cases of imported Polish beer. The spouts flowed continuously, Canova said. Workers changed a keg about every 12 minutes, he said, and near the end of the festival, the kegs were switched out every eight to 10 minutes.
Number of arrests or other incidents: Zero, despite the large amount of alcohol served, Canova said. “It’s just a pretty docile crowd that wants to polka, eat some food and have a good time.”
Forty years: About how long St. Stanislaus has had its festival. The church was established in 1919. Its school building was completed in 1920. The school will close after this school year as Catholic schools in east Omaha are consolidated.
The festival proceeds, which Canova declined to release for this year, provide much of the school’s funding, including staff salaries and insurance. Future festival profits will help keep church and school buildings maintained, he said.
“We will always be doing the festival,” Jodlowski said. “I told everyone that we will have it until the end of time.”