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Father’s Day in Hofa Park

An old Polish expression says, Nie chwal dnia przed zachodem slonca  (Don’t praise the day before sunset.)

We’re a pessimistic lot, we Poles.

But, we knew as soon as we set our chairs under a green and gold tent in Hofa Park, that Sunday would be sublime.

A fresh breeze rustled the tarp, the new dance floor smelled of sawdust, the polka band sounded like a party and the cool priest never broke a sweat (which is more than I can say for myself after a turn or two around the floor.)

The father among our little party, Vince, who’d been talking about the St. Stanislaus Parish Festival for months, had a great time.

He kicked up his heels with a polka band, wandered through rows and rows of vintage tractors, cheered on an old school baseball game, and enjoyed a giant piece of caramel apple pie.

We saw another father, the holy kind, preside over a Polka Mass, then offer a blessing to the farmers, then bless each tractor with a spray of holy water, then make his way to the dance floor to socialize with parishioners and guests, all while layered in robes and vestments.

“How do you stay cool under all of that?” someone asked Fr. Patrick Gawrylewski, OFM.

“I just don’t think about it,” he said.

In short, our second trip to the tiny but fascinating town of Hofa Park turned out to be just as enjoyable as our first. We can’t wait to go back.

Na zdrowie!

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I thought this little boy on the Massey-Harris tractor was adorable.

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Crop Adjustr

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Fueled by moonshine.

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I loved this vintage car and these two vintage friends.

Holy water

Father Patrick was everywhere. Here he is blessing each tractor with holy water.

pies

Oh man, the pies! My piece of strawberry pie filled my entire plate…and I ate every bite.

Tractor blessing

A farmer’s blessing.

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Lots of action on the dance floor.

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This little peanut tore up the dance floor. She paused a minute to chat with Father Patrick.

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They’re pretty serious about their polka.

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But they had a great time. What can I say? Vince loves to polka!

Tractor blessing 2

The antique tractor parade.

A lovely spring tramp

The summer before he died, my dad spent all of his free time chopping a walking path along the Oconto River.

He’d emerge after spending hours in the woods, dirty, sweaty, all scratched up from tree branches and wild blackberry bushes, and grinning like an eight-year old on the first day of summer vacation.

The project began with a simple sickle and an axe, but became more sophisticated with every chop. Eventually, he enlisted friends and family to ferry wood pieces via a small river boat to designated drop off points. He’d emerge from the woods to the river’s edge, gather the two-by-fours, and disappear again into the depths.

That summer he built nine bridges along the mile-long path and, sweetly, marked the end of the route by carving two wood chairs out of fallen trees for his grandchildren, five-year old Charlie and three-year old Katherine.

On Friday, we took a lovely spring tramp along the route my dad carved more than 23 years ago. We had our doubts, but the bridges held our weight, though they’d languished untended all this time.

We marveled as we crunched through the knee-deep snow — at the freshness of the air, the stillness of the woods, the promise of new life under all that frozen ground, and, mostly, at my dad’s profound legacy.

We intend to resurrect “Peggy’s Bridle Path,” which is what my dad called his summer project, and we’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to do so. We’re not particularly handy, but we know that’s okay.

We’ll make our way slowly, gratefully accept advice from our talented friends, and follow the generous path my dad carved for us so enthusiastically during the hot summer of 1992.

The bench

My dad built this deck too and we’ve made good use of it through the years. We enter the bridle path just to the left of it.

Snow covered bridge

I thought this bridge looked beautiful though, I must confess, I was not the first in our little tramping party to brave crossing it.

Reflectin in the river

The river was uncharacteristically still on Friday, owing to deep waters and very little wind.

The first bridge

This poor bridge looked a little less sturdy, but it held up under all of us. Whew!

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I just like this picture of Molly, her shadow and her reflection in the pond next to another bridge my dad built.

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And I liked the pattern of snow on this tall evergreen.

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We paused every now and then in our tramping to enjoy the day’s beauty.

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The little chair I’m sitting on and the giant blaze orange snow suit I’m wearing are both legacies from my dad. Molly refused to wear the blaze orange but, I’m telling you, I stayed warm and dry on that two hour tramp. This is one of the chairs my dad carved for his grandchildren.

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I also love this picture of Molly dancing through the woods. We never take for granted the unique ability to make our own tracks through these beautiful woods.

 

 

And then the princess threw cheese

In Thanksgiving for a weekend of pilgrimages, including a shrine

A slice of Stars Hollow in a warm apple pie