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Polanki Celebrates 60 Years Representing Polish Culture at Holiday Folk Fair International

Oct. 31, 2013

Among the groups and individuals celebrating 60 years at Holiday Folk Fair International is the Polish group, Polanki, the Polish Women’s Cultural Club of Milwaukee. The group was founded in 1953 by a group of Polish immigrant women to provide a Polish presence at Folk Fair, explained member Susan Mikos.

This year’s Holiday Folk Fair International, a program of the International Institute of Wisconsin, will be held Fri., Nov. 22 – Sun., Nov. 24 in the Wisconsin Exposition Center at Milwaukee’s State Fair Park.

“Polanki was founded in 1953 and we have grown and become more and more active over the years,” Mikos said. “We have about 100 members and there is a core group that is very active not only in Holiday Folk Fair, but also Polish Fest and several other community events throughout Wisconsin.”

The original founders of the group have passed, but many of the members have been with the group for 20 and 30 or more years. Mikos has been a member since 1978, when she and her husband moved to Milwaukee for his teaching position at UW-Milwaukee. Michael Mikos is a professor specializing in Polish language, culture, and literature.

“We immediately were exposed to the Polish community and they recruited me to work at the Folk Fair. I have a background in anthropology, so I have become thoroughly immersed in the culture,” she said.

She and her husband have traveled to Poland many times, as Michael Mikos is Director of the UW-Milwaukee Summer Study in Poland, an annual five-week program at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.

At Holiday Folk Fair, Polanki no longer does a food booth, but instead focuses on its cultural display and marketplace, which features handmade goods imported from Poland.

Mikos noted that especially popular with shoppers at the Folk Fair are the blown glass Christmas ornaments that Poland is known for and Polish pottery, distinctive with its brightly patterned designs. The Boleslawiec pottery from the Silesia region of Poland is highly collectible, but also usable because it is made from natural clay high in feldspar and silicon content and is classified as stoneware after firing. It is easily identifiable by its white or cream colored ceramic with cobalt blue, rich greens, sunny yellows, and sometimes deep reds. Unique to these ceramics are the iridescent eye markings that characterize the peacock. These large blue and green eye spots and variations are classically arranged on the pieces to depict patterns that are distinctive to the Silesian region.

“We’ll have a large variety of bowls, plates, platters, and mugs, plus serving and baking dishes,” Mikos said. “Our cultural display will focus on mushroom gathering in the Polish culture. Mushroom images are prominent in folk art, folklore, and cooking.”

Polanki will be showcasing its cultural traditions along with more than 50 other ethnic groups from around the world.

“The diversity and variety of cultures makes Folk Fair a unique event,” Mikos said. “It’s fun seeing the different folk costumes, foods, and cultures, yet we are all in it together. There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie.”

Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate the Culture of Community,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to learn the ways in which music, food, dance, and art bring together people from different backgrounds.

Special attractions in 2013 include a 70th anniversary Holiday Folk Fair Retrospective featuring memorabilia from previous events, “The Power of Exchange” Sisters Cities international arts exhibit, the “Rights and Freedoms - There and Here” United Nations exhibit, a “Human Rights” exhibit in words and pictures, the Wisconsin Woodturners, and a bonsai exhibit.

The three-day event features the All Nations Theater with traditional music and dance, the World Café offering traditional dishes, the International Stage where young people perform their ethnic dances, the Music Pavilion with a variety of musical styles, Heritage Lane with unique traditions and customs through interactive exhibits, the International Bazaar where cultural artifacts create a unique shopping experience, and the Callen Construction Chef Demonstration Stage featuring local chefs preparing traditional cuisine.

Holiday Folk Fair International will also host the “Around the World” 5K Run/Walk benefitting The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County on Sun., Nov. 24 at 9:00 a.m.

Hours on Nov. 22 are 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Nov. 23; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Nov. 24. Advance tickets will be sold for $10 each, with family four-packs for $36, and available for purchase on-line at www.folkfair.org.

Admission at the gate will be $12 for adults; $8 for children ages 6 to 12; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. Those 62 and over will be admitted for $10, and all military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free. Those that bring at least two non-perishable food items for The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County will get a $2 discount per ticket on up to four regular adult admissions.

For more information on the 2013 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.

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