, Salem, MA

September 5, 2013

World at your doorstep

International Festival draws 50,000-plus visitors for ethnic foods, music, dancing, art and children's fun

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Lola Busta has cooked food for every International Festival since the event started 30 years ago, so she knows her menu by heart.

Of course, it’s Polish.

That means stuffed cabbage (golumpki), fried cabbage (kapusta) and Polish sausage (kielbasa).

“We will have Polish doughnuts, which are paczki, and we’ll have that for dessert,” said Busta, who is president of United Polish Organizations of Peabody.

Not surprisingly, she added, “We always have a line.”

This Sunday, thousands of people will form lines all over Peabody Square as the International Festival once again celebrates the city’s ethnic diversity by serving up platefuls of foods from around the world, along with music and dancing from different cultural traditions.

More than 60 groups representing citizens with Irish, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, Brazilian and other origins will be offering menus of their own.

As with many of those citizens, Busta learned her recipes in a tradition that started well before the International Festival.

“Basically, we all learned from the ladies, the original immigrants to this country who built St. Joseph’s Church,” she said. “There’s quite a few steps to making Polish food. We were their helpers and learned from them.”

Those ladies worked in two kitchens to prepare enormous amounts of food for church picnics. In all, as many as 100 people would be involved in cooking and serving the meals.

“I remember doing the ordering, and I would order 600 pounds of flour,” Busta said. “Eighty pounds would go to baking Polish bread, called babka.

“We’d make about 10,000 pirogi — cheese, potato and cabbage,” she said. “We made 3,500 of the stuffed cabbage, called golumpki. We had 35 roasters going.”

For International Festival, Busta and a dozen others started cooking on Tuesday and continued through the week. On festival day, they’ll rise at 7:30 a.m. to make the Polish doughnuts, which must be served fresh.

Sharing food as an expression of her tradition, while also serving something delicious for people to eat, has always made the International Festival a satisfying event for Busta. Proceeds go to the organization’s scholarship fund.

“We come to work, but we socialize and have a lot of fun doing it,” she said. “It keeps us together and keeps us busy. We’re all active, and we all help each other.”

Tasty dishes aren’t the only means of bringing people together at the festival, where many groups also provide entertainment in Peabody Square, which will be closed to traffic.

A few of these include Banda Recreativa Portuguesa, a Portugese marching band, which will start playing at 10:45 a.m. and will be followed by performers from the Brazilian Community Christ Church.

They will be followed in turn by the St. Vasilios Greek School Dancers, the Italian Serenaders and a Klezmer band, Sababa, which features several teens from Peabody.

This is the first International Festival for Sababa, whose members translate their name as “awesome” and who have made 26 appearances on the North Shore in the last 14 months.

“They’re all Jewish teens, and Sam Feinstein, the bass player, was at a summer camp at Brandeis and studied in a music program there where he got introduced to Klezmer,” said Rich Sokolow, who is the father of band members Janna and Amy Sokolow and also serves as the group’s music director.

Sababa’s members range in age from 12 to 17 and are all from Peabody and Lynnfield. They play drums, bass, piano, guitar and saxophone, with three members also providing vocals.

“Klezmer is an instrumental form of music that came out of Eastern Europe,” Sokolow said. “Sababa’s music is very upbeat and uplifting. There’s Israeli and Eastern European Klezmer music and American pop — it’s very multicultural for sure.”

At a stage on upper Lowell Street, there will also be performances by the Warszawiaki Orchestra, which plays a mixture of Polish and popular dance tunes, and Belclare, which plays traditional Irish music. The Lee Hawkins Band will play rhythm and blues, and Rancho Folclorico de Peabody will follow with traditional Portuguese music, which they perform for dancers in traditional costumes.

Kids Day, a full lineup of events for children on Leather City Common, will start Sunday at 11 a.m. with puppets and magic from Steve Devitt and will also feature a martial arts demonstration and Irish dancers.

An Artist’s Galleria, behind city hall on Chestnut Street, will exhibit the works of more than 50 local artists throughout the day on Sunday.

Several events more recently associated with the International Festival include a restaurant week in Peabody, from Sept. 8 to 12, and 15 through 19, with more than 30 local restaurants offering special menus or discounts. A list of participating restaurants can be found at the Peabody International Festival website.

In addition, We Are America, United We Stand, a free, live musical tribute to America and Peabody will be held Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall.

And on Saturday, the Progeria Research Foundation will hold its 11th annual 5K road race and 2-mile walk for research, beginning at City Hall at 9 a.m. Progeria is a syndrome that causes rapid aging in children.

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL What: Ethnic foods, entertainment, art, kids' activities When: Sunday, Sept. 8, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Rain date: Sunday, Sept. 22) Where: Peabody Square, Peabody; kids' activities at Leather City Common (Lowell Street) Information:, or call the mayor's office at 978-538-5704. Related events: We Are America performance, Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m., City Hall, free; Progeria Research Foundation road race and walk, Saturday, 9 a.m., start at City Hall; Peabody Restaurant Week, Sept. 8-12 and 15-19.