Coronavirus pandemic impacts Dyngus Day too

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Dyngus Day, a Polish-American tradition, is always the day after Easter. But because of the coronavirus, many of the parties usually held today are canceled forcing the community to rethink how they celebrate this year.

The Skillet Restaurant and Catering in South Bend is just one of the places switching up its practices during the pandemic.

A line of cars has been wrapped around the block all Monday.

“Dyngus Day is crazy! So Dyngus Day for us is, of course, the traditional meal. So the sweet and sour cabbage and the mashed potatoes and gravy, the green beans…” David Vite co-owner of The Skillet said.

The Skillet is mostly a catering restaurant but because of coronavirus concerns, staffers opened up a drive-thru so folks can still celebrate Dyngus Day, with sausage and other traditional polish food.

More than 200 cars waited in line Sunday and dozens again on Monday.

“It’s one where you’re still seeing people coming in. Basically, for us, what we’re noticing a lot more if families are picking up meals but then it’s one where they’re taking the meals to each part of their individual families, each set of kids and that is really just awesome I mean its community support. It’s amazing,” Vite said.

The Skillet is still seeing a negative impact from the executive orders in place limiting operations just as other businesses in the area are.

Now Dyngus Day is usually a big event in the city, helping businesses along the way.

“When you look at South Bend, South Bend was known as the third largest place to party for Dyngus Day,” Vite said.

The day after Easter and Lent is a day many in our community take to eat drink and let loose a little.

“It’s the day after easter where the celebrations were endless,” he said.

But this year that looks a little different as coronavirus concerns has canceled all public events.

Places like The Skillet are adapting their business model to try and still get the community together to celebrate this Polish-American tradition… and the line of cars was around the block.

“Today is one where the community is coming to us compared to us catering the meals out to them,” he said.

However, it’s not only known for a large number of celebrations and polish food but for its politics.

“Dyngus Day was also solidarity day so it’s basically a benchmark day where the politicians would come out to the democratic clubs etc. And to really post their reelection campaigns and bits.”

It’s an important time for local politicians to get their name out there before the primaries.

“Normally we would see is starting at the crack of dawn is politicians and supporters out and about in the community already, breakfasts lunches and all the way into the evening,” Stan Wruble, the St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chairperson said.

A few weeks before the Indiana primaries, Wruble said it’s a way for voters to meet some of the candidates face to face.

But with those clubs closed, even that part of the holiday has changed.

“It certainly makes it much harder for candidates to reach voters and maybe persuade them to vote for them. Particularly in a primary and particularly if you are a new candidate, a candidate who does not have a lot of name recognition,” Wruble said. “It’s got to be very difficult since you can’t go knocking door to door and introducing yourself, you can’t go to the west side democratic club and give a speech in front of a couple of hundred people that maybe don’t know you. It’s difficult.”

Now there are some candidates actually taking to Facebook live to get their face out there.

But Wruble said they are hoping to have Dyngus Day events later this year, hopefully before the presidential elections.

Although some major celebrations were missed out on this year, there are some good things to come from the holiday.

The St. Joseph County Police Department is using the day to help those affected by the coronavirus.

Whether you are unemployed and without cash or you just need some extra food to feed your families, you’re in luck. The department used Dyngus Day to collect non-perishables from residents that will then be given to the local food bank.

“Last week we saw some of the unemployment numbers that were coming out in the last three weeks, thousands and thousands in our community have been filing for unemployment so we thought about a way to help,” Troy Warner, Public Information Officer for the St. Joseph County Police Department said.

While usually, people are out celebrating with food and drinks, many have lost their jobs and don’t have enough money to feed their families, but this food drive was set up to help.

Dozens of community members drove up to the St. Joseph County Jail Monday to donate non-perishables that the department will then bring to the local food bank.

“There is still a whole lot more work to do. We know this is not going to end anytime soon. We will also be partnering up with the food bank, assisting with deliveries with the food bank and real services, recruiting some volunteers with our police force to go over and pack food to deliver for those who need it,” Warner said.

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