Politicians and voters are celebrating Dyngus Day. The Polish celebration of the end of lent is also a big political holiday, particularly in South Bend.
Dyngus Day in South Bend started in 1930 at the West Side Democratic Club.
Back then the neighborhood was largely Polish, now it’s mostly populated by people of color.
The event itself has changed very little. Organizers get up early to cook fresh kielbasa and other Polish food, politicians show up to talk to voters and everyone gets to be Polish for a day.
Three hundred and seventy five pounds of fresh kielbasa sausage are boiled, browned and ready to serve by 9 a.m.
Tim Hudak is the club’s president and also its ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ a title he takes very seriously on Dyngus Day. He’s been cooking for the holiday for 30 years.
“I seem to enjoy it and I guess if I keep coming back year after year I must really love it.”
Besides polish food and beer Dyngus Day is known in South Bend for politics. Candidates will be at the club to make speeches and meet voters.
“We started here at the West Side Democratic and Civic Club to get the voters and the elected officials and and the candidates of the Democratic party together in one room to enjoy some good food, a few drinks and talk about the issues.”
Hudak said it’s a unique opportunity for voters and politicians.
“That’s to get out the vote and to get everybody together in the same rooms so that we can have a conversation one on one with each other, the elected officials and the candidates.”
Big names have visited the west side; Bobby Kennedy in 1968, Bill and Chelsea Clinton in 2008. Today Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Joe Donnelly, and the candidates for the 2nd congressional district will all be there as well as for sheriff, state house and other offices.
The Republican party in the area also has events, but it’s hard to compete against the 80-plus year history of Dyngus day at the West Side Club.