24 September 2005

All Things Polish

Polish food
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
My affection for Polish food began in Salt Lake City, when a co-worker would prepare traditional dishes each year as Easter neared for our entire office. When I discovered that Portland holds a Polish Festival each September, I had to go in order to satiate my cravings.

Early Polish immigrants to Oregon settled in the Overlook District of North Portland. By 1892 they had formed their own Polish National Alliance chapter, and in 1907 built the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church. In 1911, the Polish Library Hall was erected just south of the church. For the past 12 years North Failing Street, which runs between the two buildings, has been cordoned off and the festival is held on these historic grounds.

To ease the congestion of long lines, the festival employs the use of tokens for the purchase of food and drink. For nine tokens, I was served a plate with kielbasa sausage, golabki (a cabbage roll stuffed with rice and ground pork), two pierogis, a spoonful of hunter’s stew, and a soft roll. Also available were potato pancakes, kapusta, traditional desserts and coffee, and Polish beer.

Along with the food court, a fairway with vendors selling everything from traditional Polish pottery to literature lines the adjacent parking lot.

The entertainment stage is full of activity throughout the festival with singers and dance groups. Particularly enthralling is the local dance troupe Sobotka , comprised of three age groups ranging from 5 years to over 50. With their brightly colored costumes and quick-stepping footwork, they embody the festival spirit of culture and celebration that draws attendees back year after year. Next year, I will have to make sure I don’t miss the polka contest and the Oregon Polka Beats performance!

17 September 2005

What's a little chalk dust?

Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
My curiosity was piqued by a small clip in a local newspaper last week. It stated that Forest Grove would be holding its 15th Annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival, and anyone was welcome to come and participate. For only $10, you were assigned a 3 x 3 sidewalk block and given a tray of colorful chalk. The rest of the creation was up to the individual.

The ambitious arrived at 9am, although it appeared that a number of participants had just started not too long before I arrived around one o’clock. Some came prepared with sketches or books to guide their illustrations. Others seemed to employ a freestyle approach to the content of their squares. For several, it was a family affair. A number of the participants were students at neighboring Pacific University.

Some pieces conveyed a political or personal belief, while others expressed whimsy with their bright colors beaming up from the sidewalk. A variety of techniques were also evident among the artists. Carpet placed over completed sections of the collage would protect it from smudging, while allowing the artist to sit on top of it to finish hard-to-reach places. Spray bottles and brushes gave wet chalk a new patina. One piece even had a dusting of glitter to enhance its eye-catching appeal.

Drawings were to be finished by 3 pm, and following by an evening Italian-styled passegiata from 4-8 pm during which visitors and community members could stroll along and enjoy the artwork created earlier in the day.

03 September 2005

A Ramble through Portland's Park Blocks

Peppers and eggplants
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Since I gave so much love to the Farmer’s Market in Salt Lake City last week, I decided I should visit one a little closer to home. I have been hearing good things about the market held on the North Park Blocks in Portland, so my early morning foray began there.

A sign of a good market is the bustling activity. And the advantage of a community market is the opportunity to hand select the best of the local bounty and chat up the providers of such delicious fare. It is evident by the rapport between the vendors and the customers that this market is a weekly staple for many of the attendees.

On this particular Saturday, the market is also hosting the annual Tomato Festival. Long tables with bite-sized portions of succulent tomatoes are beckoning to be tasted. From the amusing to the exotic, names like Fantastic, Taxi, Tennessee Halo, Purple Russian, Principe Borghese, and Thessoloniki signal that these growers take their tomatoes seriously. Taste-testers were encouraged to take notes and vote for their favorite one. Free recipe booklets outlined the endless possibilities for preparing these tasty hybrids.

Best piece of advice: bring an expandable bag! I managed to make my escape with two pluots, one asian pear, a pint of blackberries, and some cilantro lime pesto.

Labor Day Weekend is the time of year when the South Park Blocks host Art in the Pearl. I attended the festival on a whim last year, and was eager to experience its vibrancy once again. Juried artists from around the country display their wares in a multitude of mediums. A performance tent is set up at one end of the festival, and food booths are given their space as well.

What lends this festival a unique feel is its location among an active, dynamic park. Neighborhood competitors join in a game of bocce at one end of the park. Parents are pushing toddlers in swings and keeping a watchful eye on their progress up the jungle gym. One has the sense that these activities are just as much a draw to the shaded park blocks as the well organized festival.