As they have been for 94 years, pierogi and sausages were being gobbled up and washed down with cold beverages Sunday at the annual St. Stanislaus Polish Festival.
The news that Storz beer would make its triumphant return at this year's festival added even more interest, said Danny Baratta, one of the organizers of the St. Stanislaus Catholic parish event. The festival officially opened at noon, but by 11 a.m., cars lined side streets for several blocks in all directions.
“We had calls all week at the rectory asking if it was true we would be serving Storz,” Baratta said. “Most definitely, a lot of the older generations were excited about that. It adds something to a festival that seems to get bigger and bigger.”
Storz also will be served Thursday through Sunday at the Cox Classic golf tournament at Champions Run, as well as at the Great Nebraska Beer Fest on Saturday at Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion.
The legendary Omaha brewer's brand will be available throughout Nebraska under an agreement with five Anheuser-Busch distributors.
The reintroduction of Storz comes after the recent announcement that the vacant Rick's Cafe Boatyard along the riverfront will be renovated and opened this fall as the Storz Trophy Room Grill & Brewery.
At Sunday's festival, Stan Wzorek, 62, wore an original Storz brewery shirt as he sat in the shade, sipping beer and listening to polka bands. Wzorek said he and his family grew up in the parish and never miss the festival.
“I drank Storz until they closed the brewery, and then I drank Falstaff until they closed that brewery,” said Wzorek, whose father-in-law worked for Storz. “This new Storz is a good lager. I think people will like it if they give it a chance.”
Invited to sit with the Wzorek family and sample Storz, this reporter agreed with another festivalgoer who likened the brew to Grain Belt or Hamm's. It was smooth, with a strong wheat taste but not bitter.
Joe Watson, another festival worker, said 10 kegs of Storz were purchased for the festival. There also were 130 kegs of Budweiser and 80 cases of 16-ounce cans of Zywiec, a strong Polish beer.
“The first two kegs of Storz were gone in an hour and three minutes,” Watson said.
Stan Siderewicz and his nephew Chris Ozment said they made it a point to taste-test the brand that once accounted for half of all the beer sold in Omaha and one-third of all beer sold in Nebraska. Both men said they might occasionally pick up a six-pack.
“What we're really here for is the food,” Ozment said. “You can't get pierogis or gołabkis of this quality anywhere but here. We go to Milwaukee once a year and a (Polish) festival in Minnesota, but this is the best Polish food you'll find anywhere.”
Pierogi are dumplings of unleavened dough that are first boiled, then baked or fried, usually in butter with onions. The traditional stuffing is potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese or fruit.
Gołabki, also known as golumpki, are lightly boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around minced pork or beef, chopped onions, and rice or barley, then baked in a casserole with tomato sauce.
Nancy Sempek-Smith, who grew up in South Omaha, said she has attended St. Stan's festival every year since she was a kid. Besides the good food and cold beverages, Sempek-Smith said she enjoys the camaraderie.
“The Storz beer is nice because it's wonderful to try what my grandpa drank, but I'm just so proud of the South Omaha community and the Polish community,” she said.
“There are all these people you haven't see in so long, and all these new faces, too,” Sempek-Smith said. “Where else can you do that?”