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Ethnic festival
Exterior of church and signage, Ethnic festival, 1999; Saint Casimir Polish Festival; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Photography by Laura Orleans
Exterior of church and signage, Ethnic festival, 1999
Saint Casimir Polish Festival
New Bedford, Massachusetts
Photography by Laura Orleans
Elizabeth Nowha, parishioner and lead cook; Ethnic festival; 1999: New Bedford, Massachusetts
Elizabeth Nowha working in church kitchen; Ethnic festival; 1999: New Bedford, Massachusetts
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Saint Casimir Polish Festival
New Bedford, MA
The New Bedford Polish community has been in existence since the late 1800s when emigrants from Poland left to escape poverty. They found work in the New Bedford textile mills and in the fishing industry. Most of these immigrants had been farmers from the southeastern part of Poland. During the 1960s, the building of Route 18 essentially destroyed the tightknit Polish community. People from the neighborhood scattered around the city. Lack of employment opportunities in recent years has led to further attrition of the community. But two main churches continue to serve the Polish community: Saint Casimir's Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. The latter holds its annual Polish festival in late June, while Saint Casimir's is held in October.

In 1999, folklorist Laura Orleans documented Saint Casimir's Polish festival, which is an annual fundraiser for the church. Food is the primary cultural attraction, although the festival also includes various raffle, bingo, lotto games, a flea market, and recorded Polish music. During the entire event, a group of older women and men work in the kitchen preparing and serving various traditional dishes. A handwritten menu lists pierogi, cabbage soup, cabbage and kielbasa, and kielbasa sandwiches, all of which are homemade. Many people come to eat and socialize in the rectory. Others buy pierogi by the dozens to take home. The lead cook in 1999 was Elizabeth Nowha, who also happened to be the oldest parishioner at age 92. Most of the people attending the event appeared to be age 50 and older.
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