It’s already been described as “The Kielbasa Festival on Steroids.”
Tom Kielbania, who revitalized the once annual Kielbasa Festival at the former site of Fairfield Mall, has taken the event he has staged at Szot Park for the past two years and brought it to the Eastern States Exposition as the International Food Fest.
The five-day International Food Fest will kick off the summer beginning Thursday, May 26, and continuing through Memorial Day on Monday with food, music, fireworks every night, crafts, midway rides, parades, contests such as kielbasa eating, and much more.
“We had so much going on at the Kielbasa Festival last year that people called it a mini-Big E. I took that as a compliment and it gave me the confidence I needed to call the Eastern States and see what they thought about bringing this event to the fairgrounds,” said Kielbania.
All the polish food and music that made the original Kielbasa Festival a hit will be back, including a braided kielbasa made locally by Blue Seal Kielbasa in Chicopee. And there is plenty more food, too, as part of the international cuisine to be served up at the event.
“We have about 40 food vendors, most of whom will be outdoors, and selling foods representative of different nations around the world,” said Kielbania.
Among the international selections to be served up will be a Belgium waffle cart, Bernat’s Polish Deli, Dee’s Flavors food cart offering Caribbean/Puerto Rican dishes, Garden Indian Restaurant, Taco Wagon, Tibetan Dumplings, Sambas Cuisine cooking up some Brazilian tastes, Say Cheese Filipino foods, Nom Nom Hut, Get Your Irish On, and many others.
For those who like to stick to their American menu, there will also be Billies Baked Potatoes, corn dogs, Ed’s French Fry, EZ Street food truck serving everything bacon, Fried Dough Guy, Butcher Boys, Trolley Dogs, chicken wings and nuggets, burgers, Subway, and a menu of many other favorites.
“I’ve been encouraging our vendors to have some affordable foods for our festival-goers priced around $6 or $7, as opposed to higher priced items at $12 or $15,” said Kielbania.
There will also be a beer garden.
Non-stop entertainment featuring more than 50 bands and singers will include Italian classics and more as part of the Dave Colucci Show, Ron Gonzalez and His Latin Explosion, the county sounds of Trailer Trash, Komboloko – 11-piece salsa band, Heshima and Souljourn Jazz Quintet, Irish legends Dicey Riley, A Ray of Elvis, as well as tributes to Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Heart and others, including plenty of polka music.
Kielbania said one of the highlights on the outdoor Main Stage on Saturday will be “The Legends Live On,” featuring Michael Allman, son of Greg Allman; Charles Neville; Jeff Pitchell; Claudette King, daughter of B.B.King; and Sheila Raye Charles, daughter of Ray Charles. The show begins at 8 p.m.
Each day has a special theme, noted Kielbania, who has deemed Thursday as Italian Night, Friday as Kielbasa Festival Night, Saturday as World Day, Sunday as their Fireworks Spectacular, and Monday as Irish/UK Day.
While there will be fireworks every night from Central Maine Pyrotechnics, Kielbania said Monday’s display in honor of Memorial Day and “all those who have fallen” will be the largest of the five nights.
“Fireworks will go off every night at 9 p.m., except for Memorial Day when they will shoot off at 7 p.m. I believe we are the only ones to offer what I call ‘daytime fireworks,’ since it will still be light at 7 p.m.,” said Kielbania.