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It is 'Fat Thursday,' Buffalo's pre-Lenten Dyngus Day

Buffalo put Dyngus Day on the map nationally.

Could a boost from Buffalo make the little-known Fat Thursday the next big Polish party of the year?

There’s an event Thursday night at the Millennium Hotel on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga to celebrate Polish heritage. And unlike Dyngus Day, Fat Thursday is actually celebrated in Poland.

Fat Thursday marks the last Thursday before the Christian season of Lent. It’s basically the Polish version of the better known “Fat Tuesday.” Just on a Thursday.

The event starts at 5 p.m. and includes free admission and free Polish food. There will also be Polish beer and liquor for sale, along with music and other revelry.

And, of course, the Polish jelly donut known as paczki.

Mmmmmm. Paczki.

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The event is organized by the United Cultural Society. Joseph Mikolaj Rej, who has been organizing “Polish Happy Hour” events in the area for several years, is the force behind the non-profit.

Polish Happy Hour took over 33 Speakeasy Grille last month. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Polish Happy Hour took over 33 Speakeasy Grille last month. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Rej said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend tonight’s party.

He said the slogan behind his activities is borrowed from this year’s presidential race – “Let’s make Buffalo Polonia great again.”

One of the goals behind his events is to boost memberships in existing Polish organizations and participation in Polish-themed events in the Buffalo area.

He wants to connect people involved in the Polish community to those who’ve lost touch with their heritage or had never felt a part of it – younger generations and older generations.

“My heritage became my family,” Rej said of what happened after both of his parents died within five months of each other in 2012.

After their deaths, Rej said he focused on using his heritage as part of his efforts to urge younger people to learn more about something that’s not very well known.

Polish heritage draws people from all generations together to celebrate. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Polish heritage draws people from all generations together to celebrate. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

“People love to learn and they love to celebrate holidays that involve their culture,” he said. “That has been very evident by the excitement that has been building. It’s events like this which plant seeds to encourage others to get more involved in their culture and our cultural communities.”

In addition to all the food and drink, Grammy-nominated John Gora and his band will perform Polka music.

There will also be raffles and silent auction items to support the organization. Prizes include round-trip airfare from JetBlue, passes to a Disney theme park and autographed memorabilia.

Another shot from the recent Polish Happy Hour at 33 Speakeasy Grille. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Another shot from the recent Polish Happy Hour at 33 Speakeasy Grille. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Email Aaron Besecker at abesecker@buffnews.com

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