09/13/12 8:59pm
09/13/2012 8:59 PM

A brawl between two men in Polish Town ended with one man pulling out a .32 caliber handgun and firing at the other, with the alleged shooter getting arrested a short time later at his Flanders house, Riverhead Town police said.

Police were responding to a menacing call about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at 500 Lincoln Avenue when they came upon the aftermath of a “physical altercation” between William Kowalksi, 27, of Riverhead and 50-year-old Joseph Smith of Flanders, authorities said.

Mr. Smith had fled the scene by the time police arrived.

Mr. Kowalksi told the officers he and the other man were fighting when Mr. Smith pulled out the handgun and fired a shot off, police said.

No one was struck by the bullet.

Riverhead police then contacted Southampton Town police, who located and arrested Mr. Smith shortly thereafter at his Oak Avenue home in Flanders.

Mr. Smith was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal possession and was being held on $75,000 bail.

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08/19/12 1:52pm
08/19/2012 1:52 PM

The Polish Town Civic Association food stall was a buzz of activity Sunday afternoon as a crowd gathered along Pulaski Street.

“I need another two orders of pierogies and sour cream!” shouts Lisa Mielnicki from the front of the tent. A few feet away, the volunteers quickly toss the traditional dumplings into a paper container. Before they can catch their breath, another order.

“Another sandwich with kraut!” yells Ms. Mielnicki, and the half-dozen cooks get back to work.

For Lisa, Tom, Gianna, Ariana and Nicole Mielnicki, and Mike Frare and Scott Szczepanik, this has been their Polish Town Fair for years. And these kings and queens of kielbasa would have it no other way.

“It’s the one thing you look forward to each summer,” Ariana Mielnicki said. “You count down the days until the Polish Town Fair.”

See the team in action below as they prepare sandwiches from the 2,300 pounds of kielbasa ordered for the fair.

Read more about the making of kielbasa and pierogies in this week’s News-Review.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTOS | Mike Frare of Center Moriches, who has been volunteering at the Polish Town Fair for the past seven years, serves up the fair’s signature dish — a kielbasa sandwich.

Polish Town Queen First Runnerup Nicole Mielnicki and her sister Ariana prepare some pierogies at the tent on Griffing Avenue and Pulaski Street.

Scott Szczepanik puts the pierogies on the grill at Sunday’s Polish Town Fair. The traditional Polish dumplings are first boiled in water before being thrown on the griddle to give them a little extra crispiness.

Tom Mielnicki (back left) coordinates the food for the Polish Town Fair, and has had family and friends help sell pierogies and kielbasa at the stand for the past three years.

Tom Mielnicki, a Riverhead resident, says he volunteers at the fair each year because of the community. “It’s one of the last things that is actually ‘hometown,’” he said of the fair.

Preperations for the food tents begins the Monday before the fair; volunteers sometimes spend 8-to-12-hour days prepping for the annual event.

Mr. Mielnicki says the fair’s organizers bought 2,300 pounds of kielbasa, all special ordered, for the two-day festival.

08/16/12 6:00am
08/16/2012 6:00 AM

SUFFOLK TIMES ARCHIVES | Revelers sing and dance at the first-ever Polish Town Fair in 1975.

“There was dancing in the streets, in the rain and in the puddles.”

That was the lead sentence in our August 1975 story on the very first Polish Town Fair. It was estimated that “thousands” flocked to Pulaski Street that rainy day, downing plate after plate of kielbasa, pierogies and golabki. Many purchased T-shirts that read “Poland” and “Polish Power.”

“Even the Italians and the Englishmen were swaying about and tapping their feet to the polka music which came vibrating through loudspeakers,” we wrote.

The fair, which has for 38 years held its claim as one of the most fun-filled events of summer in Riverhead, returns again this weekend. Tens of thousands more people will come out to celebrate.

So how did the Polish Town Fair come about?

The fair was born in 1975 as a way for the Polish Town Civic Association to raise funds, according to the organization’s website. Some folks suggested a parade. Others called for a polka ball. One idea shone brighter than the rest: “We’ll have a street fair,” the website quotes one unidentified member as suggesting. “Like the ones they have in Poland. It will be a true Polish event.”

That year’s one-day festival, held on Aug. 16, was directed by Al Barbanel, who served as chairman of the fair committee. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast day of the Assumption of Mary — a holiday celebrated by Catholics in Poland and other countries to honor the day the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven following her death.

Only 50 booths were set up for the inaugural Polish Town Fair. We estimated in our coverage that had organizers set up seven more booths serving Polish pastries that year, those would have sold out, too.

But fair organizers weren’t caught by surprise in 1975.

Former Riverhead tax receiver Irene Pendzick, who helped organize the first event, warned the Town Board a few weeks before the fair that it was growing into something bigger than they’d imagined.

“At first we didn’t plan a major event,” she told the board. “But it’s turning out to look like quite a fair.”

It was. It still is.

Our very first Polish Town Fair story ended with a hopeful wish from the author. It’s something many local folks have repeated in the years since.

“Here’s hoping for a sunny Polish Festival next year,” she wrote. “And more great eats.”

07/17/12 11:00am
07/17/2012 11:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Firefighters made quick work of a car fire south of Pulaski Street in Polish Town early Tuesday morning.

Riverhead firefighters quickly put out a small blaze that engulfed a sedan behind a Polish Town home early Tuesday morning.

No one was was hurt during the fire, officials said.

The fire department received the call for a vehicle fire on Hamilton Avenue at 3:32 a.m. The first fire chiefs arrived on the scene two minutes later.

A fire department volunteer at the scene said the car, which was parked behind a residence south of Pulaski Street was “flaming up pretty good” when firefighters first got to the scene. Firefighters had the fire under control by 4 a.m. while Riverhead police officers blocked off the road between Pulaski and Lincoln Streets.

Click here to read similar stories from riverheadnewsreview.com

Riverhead Fire Department chief Anthony White said the car was unoccupied when the fire started, adding that the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.


07/01/12 5:19pm
07/01/2012 5:19 PM

CZAPLAK FAMILY COURTESY PHOTO | Marta Czaplak after her coronation Friday.

Earlier this year, Marta Czaplak was a starter on the Riverhead High School girls basketball team that won the Long Island Championship and made the final four statewide, and she hit a number of clutch 3-point shots in the playoffs to help the team to victory.

Now, she’s gained another title, Polish Town Queen.

On Saturday, Ms. Czaplak was named Queen for this year’s Polish Town Fair and Festival, which will be held Aug. 18 and 19 in Polish Town. She was a runner-up in last year’s Queen contest. Ms. Czaplak graduated from Riverhead High School’s Class of 2012 last week and will attend Suffolk Community College in the fall.

Nicole Mielnicki, a 2011 Riverhead High School graduate, was named Princess,  as first runner up for this year’s Polish Town Fair and Festival.

In June, the Polish Town Civic Association, which has run the festival every year since 1975, had considered not having the queen contest this year because of a shortage of contestants, but they did subsequently get some contestants.


03/08/12 8:00pm
03/08/2012 8:00 PM


No it’s not daylight savings quite yet, that bright light you might see near your home is a full moon.

The photo above was actually taken by News-Review photographer Barbaraellen Koch Wednesday night, one evening before the full moon, over the school bus yard on North Griffing Avenue in Polish Town.

We thought the astronomer in all of you might enjoy the view.

Be safe, and enjoy the natural beauty of the sky on this full moon night.

02/24/12 4:00pm
02/24/2012 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Kay Davis on the last day in her shop 'Hairstyles in Motion' works on longtime client Trudy McKillop, 82, of Polish Town. Trudy said "For me it's convenient. I just walk across the street. She does a good job and we have lots of laughs. We have a good time."

Another Polish Town institution left town today when Kay Davis closed her “Hairstyles in Motion” store after 32 years at its Pulaski Street locale.

She planned to close at about 1:30 p.m., and then have a reception with some of her loyal customers afterwards.

Ms. Davis said that all of the stores that were in Polish Town when she first opened her shop in 1980 have since left, and now her store is closing too.

“I’m the last merchant,” she said. “I’ve been here the longest. Every one of them is gone.”

Ms. Davis, who lives in Calverton and who has been the coordinator of the Polish Town Street Fair and Festival for the last decade, will be staying around herself, and plans to continue to be involved in the fair and in the Polish Town Civic Association, of which she’s been a member since 1985, and has been president five times.

“Any kind of volunteer work I can do, I’m available,” she said.

“I think it’s a sad day,” said Burte Harris, her longtime friend, customer, and fellow Polish Town Civic Association member.

“She’s been a big part of Polish town, with 32 years that she’s been here. It hurts me, because we’ve been a big part in the revitalization of Polish town. I’ll have to invite her for lunch sometime to do my hair.”

Ms. Davis said she will, in fact, be available to come to people’s homes to do their hair.

Ms. Davis said she’s been considering closing her shop for the past three years, and figured she’d get out while she’s ahead. But that doesn’t make the decision any easier.

“It’s sad,” she said. “You cannot imagine how I feel. It’s like a big part of my life’s been taken away from me. Polish Town has been like my second home. I’m 71 years old and ever since I was a child, my family was active in Polish Town and I always wanted to be a part of this community.”

When she first opened her shop on June 4, 1980, she said, “It was my dream. I never expected to open my own beauty parlor, but when the availability came to me in 1980, I figured, this was my opportunity.”

The storefront had previously been an ice cream parlor and a lot of work was required to convert it into a beauty parlor, she said, but she got a lot of help and support from her friends and family in doing so.

She had 11 employees when she opened. Now she just has her daughter and one other employee. She had been a hairdresser before she opened her own shop, and she will be a hairdresser for 49 years come April 2.

Ms. Davis recalls a time when she worked seven days a week until 7:30 p.m. and Polish Town “was the place to be on a Friday night in Riverhead,” as people packed into the now-closed Doc’s Tavern.

Many of the new stores opening in Polish Town are not Polish stores, as had been case in years past, although there remains a large Polish-American population in the town.

For the future, Ms. Davis said she’s hoping to work with kids, and will continue to do some hair styling jobs at people’s homes.

“I just think it’s time for me to move on,” she said. “I’ve had many loyal customers who have been with me for years. I only lose them when they die.”


02/19/12 12:00pm
02/19/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Polish Town's new mascot is most often seen sitting atop area sheds, and coming up to back doors for food.

Michelle Gromadzki has seen plenty of Canada geese and even a few chickens near her house over the 29 years she’s lived in Riverhead’s Polish Town.

But the latest visitor to her yard is a little more unique, a little more of gobbling-type.

“I’ve never seen [anything like this] before,” she said.

“It showed up last Thursday and has come back every day for food since,” said another neighbor.

Over the last week or so, a wild turkey has visited Ms. Gromadzki and her neighbors. The fowl that’s apparently lost its flock now spends its time flying from house to house, perching on neighbor’s roofs, and snacking on water and food left out by his generous new neighbors.

Ms. Gromadzki said she first saw the turkey about six days ago, when her Boston Terrier, Daisy, was playing in the bushes. Suddenly, she said, the turkey jumped out of the bush and strutted across the yard.

“[The turkey] was not afraid,” she said. “I think she liked playing with him.”

Now, Ms. Gromadzki sees the turkey flying from yard to yard each day. And though the neighbors haven’t named the wild fowl yet, Ms. Gromadzki said she doesn’t want the neighborhood’s newest friend to leave.

“My husband said, ‘I hope somebody doesn’t kill him for their dinner,’” she joked. “I sure hope not. He’s so beautiful.”