The Irish holidays we celebrate (St. Patrick's Day and Halfway to St. Patrick's Day) make sense, because, you know... McMenamin. (And beer.) The Syrah Festival at Edgefield, sure, because of the grapes and the winery and such. The UFO Festival seems at first glance to be a stretch, but once you know the story, it falls into place.
So... why do we throw a Crown the Eagle Festival, again?
The North Portland neighborhood surrounding the legendary White Eagle Cafe and Rock 'n' Roll Hotel has a rich Polish history. It was Polish immigrants who established the White Eagle in 1905, primarily as a formal meeting place and aid station for other Polish immigrants. In fact, its name, White Eagle, was derived from the symbol on the Polish national flag. Portland's early Polish community formed around and in close proximity to the White Eagle and its two pillars-the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and the Polish Library Hall - were organized at meetings held in the White Eagle in its early days.
But What Does "Crown the Eagle" Mean?
McMenamins' White Eagle logo (painted high on the wall, to your right as you walk inside the front entrance) was originally rendered crown-less, which unbeknownst to us, symbolizes to those of Polish extraction the dark and repressive era of Communist control in their country. (After several changes in politics and regimes via war and takeovers through the past several centuries, Poland became a democracy for the final time during the Revolutions of 1989.)
This was politely but pointedly brought to our attention by Portland Polish community members. Wanting of course to show respect for the White Eagle's proud past and maintain good relations with the city's present Polish community, we gladly corrected our mistake. McMenamins artist Myrna Yoder was brought back to add the crown to the eagle she had earlier painted on the wall, rightfully restoring it as the symbol of Poland's independence and rich heritage. And, we thought, why not make it a bigger and more special occasion by collaborating with Polish community members to organize, around the time of Polish Constitution Day, a festival that celebrates the country's culture and history? It turned out to be so much fun that we decided to make it an annual event.
So Now Let's Party!
For this year's Crown the Eagle Festival: A Polish Heritage Celebration on Saturday, May 10, the White Eagle hosts a full day of Polish and Polish-inspired fare, featuring adorable Polish School student singers and dancers, performances by the prestigious Agnieszka Laska Dancers, Polish community arts and crafts booths, kids' music, facepainting and storytelling, a history presentation and live music by bands including the widely acclaimed Chervona, "a band that brings the fire of Eastern European carnivals to North Portland."
And how about drinks and food?
The Edgefield Brewery is providing an organic Baltic porter they named Pavol the Collector, "after our friend Pavol 'Pali' Olsavsky who lives in Košice, Slavakia, and was hoping for some 'promotional materials such as flags, etiquettes, and such to enrich his collection' of beer paraphernalia. We sent him some schwag and went to the next level by naming our submission to the North American Organic Brewers Fest after him. Now we just need to figure out what an etiquette is...."
The festival will also feature such Polish food specialities as pierogi soup, grilled polska kielbasa, chicken schnitzel and more.
So make sure to arrive thirsty, hungry and ready to celebrate all things Polish, with your friends and family in tow. Na zdrowie! (pronounced: nah zdroh-vee-eh)