Politics and Polish sausage: South Bend Dyngus Day 2023

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Pockets of the country celebrate Dyngus Day, the Polish holiday that falls the Monday after Easter, but in South Bend, it's become THE annual political event! 

Especially at the West Side Democratic Club, which claims to be the home of the original South Bend Dyngus Day! 

What made it a day to really ramp up voters ahead of primary elections, besides the timing of the election cycle, was the visit to South Bend in 1968 by Bobby Kennedy. 

Local political columnist, Jack Colwell, attended this historical event. 

“1968 is when Bobby Kennedy put Dyngus Day on the national map,” Colwell said. “When he came, the streets were packed all the way from downtown out to the club.”

After his South Bend Dyngus Day celebration at the club, he went on to win the Indiana presidential primary. 

“I rode in the convertible with him,” Colwell said. “We had to literally get down on the floor of the car, because people were reaching out to Kennedy to touch him or with a pen for an autograph. It was really dangerous. I remember [Sen. Vance] Hartke lost his glasses.”

“I have never seen, ever, in all the years I’ve covered politics, anything quite like that,” he continued. 

While the Kennedy visit solidified the political tradition, it was nothing new to family that owned and maintained the West Side Democratic & Civic Club.

“The West Side Democratic has always done a political event for Dyngus Day,” said President Timothy Hudak, “because we believe in getting out the vote.”

His daughter, Sam, said she grew up helping out with the event.

“I’ve done it all my life, I’m 16, almost 17,” she said. “It is a big part of my family. If you go into the kitchen, most of my family is there working it.” 

Every year, the West Side Democratic Club celebrates all the candidates on the left side of the aisle, upholding the tradition of politics and Polish sausage. 

And going beyond Polish tradition, Dyngus Day is also Solidarity Day. 

“Solidarity day started in 1971, a group of African American men got together,” said Gladys Muhammad, Solidarity Chair for the local Elks Lodge. “They came together to make sure that politicians, when they came to talk about politics and who to vote for, that they came into the neighborhood. And many times, they didn’t come into the neighborhood, and they didn’t meet African American people. So, they started Solidarity Day.” 

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