We certainly love our food here in Northeast Pennsylvania.
We’re proud of our pizza, our ethnic fare, and we’re just coming off the 30th anniversary of the Pittston Tomato Festival, yet we still have one more thing to celebrate this coming weekend: kielbasa.
The Plymouth Kielbasa Festival will celebrate its 10th year this time around, a decade-long journey that Sue Gryziec, vice president of Plymouth Alive, said encapsulates the huge growth of something people weren’t sure was going to take off in the first place.
Plymouth Alive is a group of residents and business people committed to making the town better and, in doing so, have made thousands of dollars in donations to the borough fire and police departments and the public library, among others.
“Ed Vnuk started Plymouth Alive and thought of this festival, and a lot of people just didn’t think it was going to be popular,” she said. “But it’s been astronomical. We get 20,000 to 30,000 people at it every day.”
Gryziec also said that since the beginning, the list of vendors has grown from 20 to over 100 and that there are currently two bandshells in operation during the festival. Vendors from as far as Virginia and Tennessee come to sell their wares in Plymouth.
“People come for the entertainment, and they come for the food, so vendors want to be a part of this,” Gryziec said. “And it’s not just kielbasa. There’s Italian, there’s Greek – food of every ethnicity.”
The star, though, is the kielbasa, a type of sausage most associated with the Polish ethnicity, and it can be spelled plenty of ways – kiełbasa, kołbasa, kolbasi, and kovbasa, to name a few – but no matter how you say or write it, it’s clear that there’s a solid following for the tasty meat in the area.
The biggest part of the Kielbasa Festival is the judging process, where a panel of about 20 locals judge local kielbasa on taste, texture, and appearance. Even this singular event has grown exponentially over the years.
“We had to move the venue this year because Franchella’s Restaurant just couldn’t accommodate the crowd,” Gryziec noted. The judging will now take place Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. at the American Legion on Center Avenue.
The prime sponsor for the festival this year is First Keystone Community Bank, and the entertainment lineup is even more packed to the brim than prior years, particularly on Saturday night when three bands will perform: The Neighborhood, The Whazoos, and Eddie Day & TNT.
MEET THE MEAT
The competition is certainly stiff when it comes to the judging of fresh and smoked kielbasa at the Plymouth Kielbasa Festival, so it would do one well to know the main players – mainly so you could scope out their tents at the festival and try their famous meats for yourself.
Fetch’s Smokehouse Meats
(184 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, 570.693.3069)
Any past Kielbasa Festival wins? “We are the inaugural kielbasa king,” third-generation owner David Fetch said. “We won the first year for smoked, then we won in 2011.”
How long have they been in business? Currently in its fourth generation, this business began with the opening of a butcher shop in Wyoming in 1922.
What type of kielbasa do they sell? Smoked, fresh, habanero kielbasa sticks, jalapeno and cheese kielbasa sticks, regular kielbasa sticks, kielbasa loaf, and a kielbasa loaf that Fetch said serves well as a substitute for bacon on a BLT sandwich.
What type of recipe is used for the kielbasa? A family one. “It’s a secret as far as the quantities of spices go,” Fetch said.
What makes a good kielbasa? According to Fetch, starting out with lean, fresh pork.
The best way to eat kielbasa? “I love it with horseradish,” Fetch said.
What is Fetch looking forward to most about the Kielbasa Festival? “I had a supermarket in Plymouth for almost 30 years, so I always look forward to seeing our former customers.”
Bosak’s Choice Meats
(524 Burke Bypass, Olyphant, 570.383.5260)
Any past Kielbasa Festival wins? Bosak’s is a reigning champion, being the competition to beat with four first-place trophies for smoked kielbasa and six for fresh.
How long have they been in business? “It all started 25 years ago on our farm,” said Tom Bosak, who operates the business with his wife Gail, brother Mark, and his wife Tammy. “We’ve been in this location for 14 years.”
What type of kielbasa do they sell? Smoked, fresh, smoked with cheese, turkey, turkey with cheese, and beef.
What type of recipe is used for the kielbasa? “My mother (Genevieve) couldn’t eat kielbasa, so my brother and I came up with a recipe that she was able to eat,” Tom said.
What makes a good kielbasa? According to Tom, everything has to come together perfectly: the right garlic, the right meat, the right casing. His wife Gail said that everything should be as fresh and natural as possible.
The best way to eat kielbasa? Gail prefers hers with sauerkraut and horseradish, while Tom likes to sit down with a big plate of pierogies to accompany his.
What are the Bosaks looking forward to most about the Kielbasa Festival? “We love seeing all the different people and interacting with our customers,” Gail said. “We like to check with them to make sure everything tastes good. And, of course, we love the competition.”
(412 Main St., Duryea, 570.457.3261)
Any past Kielbasa Festival wins? Owner Robert Sepelyak couldn’t recall the exact number off-hand, but he said around half a dozen.
How long have they been in business? For 50 years.
What type of kielbasa do they sell? Smoked, fresh, and smoked with cheese.
What type of recipe is used for the kielbasa? According to Sepelyak, it’s the same as any other local kielbasa maker, “a family recipe that’s pretty much secret.”
What makes a good kielbasa? “You need to use the proper meats and make sure everything is fresh,” Sepelyak said.
The best way to eat kielbasa? Sepelyak prefers his kielbasa to stand out on its own.
What is Komensky’s Market looking forward to most about the Kielbasa Festival? “The camaraderie amongst everyone down there is great,” Sepelyak said, before pausing to laugh, “and of course, the big lines.”
Other places to look out for:
Tarnowski’s Market in Glen Lyon
(32 E. Main St., Glen Lyon, 570.736.6585)
(30 E. Broad St., Nanticoke, 570.735.2400)
Plains Meat Market
(5 Hudson Road, Wilkes-Barre, 570.824.8376)
SOME LOCAL FLAVOR
Tammy Bosak has a favorite recipe that involves kielbasa. There are no exact measurements here (she said to eyeball it), but what results is a tasty treat.
• Bosak’s fresh kielbasa (both “loose”” and in casing)
• Green zucchini (diced)
• Yellow squash (diced)
• Fresh tomatoes (diced)
• Red potatoes (diced)
• Chicken base/broth
• Butter and flour (melt butter and add flour to thicken)
• Granulated garlic
• Coarse black pepper
Throw everything in a pot, stew, and enjoy.
PLYMOUTH KIELBASA FESTIVAL
Aug. 23-24, Route 11, Main Street, Plymouth
Fleet Decal Bandshell
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Rock Dogs
4-6 p.m.: Stanky and the Coalminers
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Flaxy Morgan
9-11 p.m.: Iron Cowboy
Wyoming Valley West Bandshell
1:30-3:30 p.m.: John Stevens and Doubleshot
4-6 p.m.: 40 lb. Head
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Liar Liar
9-11 p.m.: New Revival
Fleet Decal Bandshell
11 a.m.: 10th Anniversary Parade
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Jeanne Zano Band
4-6 p.m.: Polka Naturals
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Basin Street All-Star Band
9-11 p.m.: Kielbasa Rock Festival featuring The Neighborhood, The Whazoos and Eddie Day & TNT
Wyoming Valley West Bandshell
1:30-3:30 p.m.: Joe Stanky & Cadets
4-6 p.m.: Rusty Nuts
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Breakdown Jimmy
9-11 p.m.: Mother Natures Son