John Herdzina of Countryside, Ill.; Elaine Nowak of Chicago; Stella Plys of Orland, Ill.; and (standing) Laverne Messina of Countryside enjoy an afternoon of fun, socializing and music during the Festival of the Lakes Polka Party at the Hammond Marina. | Sue Ellen Ross for the Post-Tribune
Updated: September 13, 2013 6:06AM
Polka enthusiasts were in their element as they visited the 10th annual Festival of the Lakes Polka Party. Dancing to live music, socializing, and tasting Polish foods were on the afternoon’s fun agenda.
“This heat wasn’t going to get us down,” said Mary Haluska of Chicago as she fanned herself in the 90-degree air. “We’ll just keep busy dancing and having cold drinks.”
Haluska and her group of Illinois residents joined hundreds of people at the Hammond Marina as they relaxed in lawn chairs and on blankets against the backdrop of Lake Michigan.
For those so inclined, the patio was open for polka dancing to the music of the D Street Band.
This year’s visit to the Polka Party was the second for Tom and Leslie Staish of Hammond.
“I am so surprised how big this (event) has become,” Leslie said, as she enjoyed an authentic Polish dinner from Hammond’s Cavalier Inn. “We’re very diverse here in northwest Indiana, so it’s important to highlight our cultures.”
The couple joined the crowd of party guests as they mingled, strolled along the marina, and took walks along the pier.
“I’ve never been here before, this is quite a place,” said Joe Martinez of Merrillville, as he and his son Ray entered the pier out to Lake Michigan. “There’s some interesting boats docked here, a neat little beach, and further out, I see some fisherman.”
As part of Hammond’s annual Festival of the Lakes, the Polka Party was developed as a way to showcase Polish culture to both northwest Indiana residents, as well as those from nearby Illinois. And also to introduce people to the Hammond Marina.
Friends Dana Harrington and Jan Martin enjoy traveling to many of the northwest Indiana festivals that are offered this time of year. The Calumet City ladies consider themselves food connoisseurs and are very open to trying cuisine of varying tastes.
“Since there’s so many festivals to choose from, we have to make a list at the beginning of the summer,” Harrington said, as she stood in line to purchase her stuffed cabbage dinner. “I can’t even begin to tell you what I’ve discovered at some of them, least of all how to use spices I’ve never cooked with before.”
As the evening wore down, although the temperature didn’t, many of the visitors said this party was one of the best in the region.
“Old, young, middle-age, this Polka Party is open to everybody. And they’re all up there dancing,” laughed Jasko Harriman of Hammond. “It’s such a good time — just like a wedding reception — but we didn’t have to bring a present!”