If you ask anyone who knows me, you will quickly learn that I love pretty much anything Slavic. Polish buffet? Check. Czech goulash worth a three hour drive? Czech. (see what I did there?) Bratislava? Oh yea. So it only makes sense that I love the hell out of the below-listed festivals. And yes, I am aware that it is halfway through the season and I am just getting around to writing about Chicago summer festivals, but whatever. These are the good ones. The ones that count.
1. Pierogifest. July 26-28. A little town known as Whiting, IN.
First, the fest has its own URL so you know these people aren't screwing around. Musical acts include the Mr. Pierogi Songfest featuring Mr. Pierogi and his Pieroguettes (Miss Potato, Miss Cheese, Miss Mushroom, Miss Berry, Miss Beef, Miss Apricot, and Miss Sauerkraut) and a PIEROGI EATING CONTEST. Just kill me now because life cannot get any better.
I know it's tongue in cheek but everyone seems to have a pretty good time and it might be the only place in America you can still smoke inside a bar. Parking isn't too tough but I suggest bringing water because it gets pretty hot. Don't miss the gift shop on the north side of the main drag...about half-way down. Oh, and check out all the pierogi options before you go all in; so many pierogis, so little time!
2. Serb Fest. August 9-11. Jefferson Park.
OK, I am going to be honest. I have never gone to this festival. But you can bet your Blagojevich loving ass that we are going this year. Why? Because of these pictures right here. Go, I'll wait. They have many animals rotating over a giant fire on spits. Not just one. MANY. Say meat isn't your thing (that's cool, hippie), how about EVERYTHING ELSE? Volleyball tournament! Musical acts! Meat stuffed with meat! I wish August would get here already.
3. Ukrainian Days Festival. August 24-25. Smith Park.
When you approach the park, you come face-to-face with a tank. Completely irrelevant factoid, but just so you know you are in the right place (as if the zillions of blue and yellow flags didn't already signal the festival's location). Lots of street parking and sweet, delicious, homemade Ukrainian food.
Now, I have hung out with some Ukrainians in my day: Sneaking sips of something or other at 5AM in Dulles airport, in a cab zooming to the Des Moines mall to buy some colorful shirts before it closed and while trying to explain to them why the White House "looks so small" compared to pictures ("bily dum? bily dum?" tr. White House? pointing...White House?). Oh, and when I hid a chewed-up chunk of "salo" (salted lard) in a napkin in my suit pocket while we toured some farms. That said, I am no expert on Ukrainian culture, but I am an expert on fun. And you will find it here.
So do it up, Chicago! Make an "Irish girl who can't cook a pierogi worth a damn" proud!