Knoxville’s second annual contemporary Polish festival
By Michael Kull with photos by Edward Foley Photography
Being active can mean different things to different people: an active mind, and active body, active creativity, to name a few. This is why the many family-friendly public events that are taking place around Knoxville are great ways to get active. Rhythm and Blooms, the Dogwood Arts Festival, the Rossini Festival, and the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market on Market Square have all been great ways for families to actively spend quality time together.
Another great example of this was this year’s PolandNow Festival, a celebration of contemporary Polish culture, which took place over two days at two locations in Knoxville this year. The Pienkow Gallery, situated in the lobby of West Knox Plaza (and the office of Knoxville Parent contributor Dr. Marek Pienkowski) was the site of an exhibition of contemporary Polish art by painter Agnieszka Żak-Biełowa, who lives in Warsaw, Poland.
This event was a quiet one, with wine and cheese, relaxing music, and families taking their time to study and admire Ms. Żak-Biełowa’s mesmerizing paintings displayed on the two floors of the gallery.
Knoxville city Mayor Madeline Rogero was there and visited with the crowd before being recognized by Honorary Consul for the Republic of Poland, Dr. Marek Pienkowski. Knoxville Parent Co-Publisher, Eva Nations, who also serves as the President of PolandNow greeted visitors and welcomed everyone to this, the start of the two-day celebration.
Then, on the following evening, the festivities moved to Market Square, where the quiet admiration for contemporary art gave way to the raucous enjoyment of live music, dancing and specially prepared Polish food. This event also included an opening ceremony that featured the University of Tennessee ROTC Color Guard, the singing of the American and Polish national anthems accompanied by local trumpet player, Pee Jay Alexander, and remarks by Nations, Pienkowski, former US Ambassador to Poland (and former Knoxville City Mayor) Victor Ashe, Jesse Mayshark, City of Knoxville Communications Director, and Dean Rice, Knox County Chief of Staff.
Seven different food tents offered a wide variety of contemporary Polish cuisine based on traditional ingredients, all designed and prepared by Memphis Chef, Edward Nowakowski with the support of Chef Greg Eisele and the UT Culinary Institute. This was a culinary tour of six of Poland’s nineteen regions and showed the rich diversity of Poland’s food culture.
While the aromas of delicious food wafted throughout Market Square, local funk band Soulfinger, led by front man Tim Spencer, likewise, filled the air with their heartfelt and relentlessly energetic music. By the end of the evening, when most of the people would already have headed home, the food was gone, but the crowd wasn’t. Any divisions between people melted away, as the area in front of the stage was filled with people of different races and nationalities, young and old, the able as well as the wheelchair bound, all united, holding hands and joyfully dancing together until the very last minute.
It’s events like this, and ones coming up like Jazz on the Square (knoxjazz.org), the International Biscuit Festival (biscuitfest.com) and the Kuumba Festival (https://sites.google.com/site/kuumbafestival) that make Knoxville such a terrific place for families to get active, whether is through the mind, body, or the creative spirit. So, come on…what are you waiting for?
Michael Kull, in addition to co-publishing Knoxville Parent, is a classically trained singer. He has performed with orchestras and choruses around the country and in Europe and maintains a private vocal studio in Knoxville.