Dyngus Day brings politics and Polish sausage together

Jackie Walorski was the headliner among candidates to appear for the lunchtime crowd at Elkhart's Knights of Columbus hall.

Posted on April 21, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.

ELKHART — There were Polish sausages, the three District 48 Indiana House hopefuls, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski and plenty of hungry people chowing down and soaking it all in.

Monday, April 21, was the day after Easter, which at the Knights of Columbus hall here means just one thing — Dyngus Day, the post-Easter, Polish-themed bash unique to northern Indiana and a handful of other places. The order of the day is heavy food and glad-handing politicians, at least in election years, and it all was there Monday.

Here are a few highlights, slanted to the political side of things:

District 48 hopefuls: The three GOP hopefuls in the hotly contested race for the District 48 Indiana House seat were there, Adam Bujalski, Doug Miller and Jesse Bohannon

"I'm excited. I'm getting great feedback," said Miller. "I feel we're in a good position, vote-wise."

Bujalski saw the event as a great opportunity to meet people he may not otherwise see on the campaign trail. With the District 48 post wide open — incumbent Rep. Tim Neese isn't seeking re-election — that's vital.

"We definitely have the most contentious of all the races in the county," Bujalski said.

Bohannon was traveling with U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski to varied Dyngus Day events here and in South Bend — as he's done the last several years. He was helping bolster the conservative cause, he said, though face time with the public doesn't hurt.

"It seems like it's neck and neck right now," said Bohannon. "I think it's going to come right down to the wire."

U.S. Rep. Walorski: Walorski arrived in a bus with a bevy of around 40 supporters, including Bohannon, many clad in Walorski T-shirts. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, her right arm in a sling after rotator cuff surgery, was also on hand.

Walorski ate a pierogi and sweet and sour cabbage, two mainstays of Dyngus Day fare, wanting to see if they were as good as her homemade versions. Making the rounds to several events here and in St. Joseph County, though, she left the rest of her plate empty.

"Dyngus Day is such a celebration for me, being Polish," she said. "I've been Dyngus-ing since I was a kid."

She doesn't face a GOP challenger in the May 6 primary, so she didn't delve too deeply into election issues. Weather — the relatively good weather on Monday after a harsh winter — seemed to be a big topic on people's minds.

"People are just so excited to be out in T-shirts," she said.

Talking politics, the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal will likely be garnering attention in Washington, D.C., in the near term, she said. President Obama recently delayed a decision on whether the controversial project, backed by Walorski and many Republicans, can go forward.

The pierogi, by the way, were "great," but her sweet and sour cabbage is better, Walorski said.

Four Democrats are vying for Walorski's 2nd District U.S. House seat. Dan Morrison, one of the four, had political signs outside the Knights of Columbus hall, but none were present, at least as of around mid-day Monday.

Judges candidates: Some of the candidates for judge's posts were also on hand. Judge's races aren't the most visible races, but they face scrutiny at the ballot box, too, and need support to get elected and hold on to their jobs.

"Just trying to get my message out," said Teresa Cataldo, one of four candidates running for the Elkhart Superior Court 3 post. Some people aren't comfortable voting for judge, "because they haven't met a judge or don't know a judge." She was there to ease any discomfort.

Also there were Andrew Hicks and David Francisco, running for the Elkhart Superior Court 3 post as well, and Charles Wicks, unopposed in his bid for re-election to the Elkhart Superior Court 5 post.

Sausage, sausage, sausage: There were 400 pounds of Polish sausage to feast on over the course of the day, said Steve Riikonen, trustee of the Knights of Columbus here.

Still, he wasn't expecting a record-breaking day, perhaps 1,000 people. Presidential election years are the busiest, typically drawing around 1,500, he said.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.

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