Pierogi Fest: Whiting’s Biggest Event
By all accounts, the 24th annual Pierogi Fest was a success. The crowds responded enthusiastically to the parade and other activities. The good weather helped bring out large crowds. And the three-day event generated plenty of positive publicity, which is likely to draw even more people to the 25th Pierogi Fest in July 2019.
Whiting has a history of attracting large crowds for some of its events. Labor Day used to be a major holiday in the city both before and after the years of World War Two. In 1949, an estimated 20,000 people showed up for the all-day celebration at Whiting Park, where there was music and dancing, entertainers, baseball and softball games, boxing and wrestling matches to watch, and plenty of activities for children.
For 1949, a crowd of 20,000 more than doubled the city’s population, which was just below 10,000 at the time. But even larger crowds have showed up for the annual 4th of July celebrations. In 1970, they estimated a crowd of 85,000 for the parade, fireworks, and carnival at Whiting Park. That was twelve times larger than the population of the city, which was around 7,000 at the time.
Determining crowd size is an inexact science, and we don’t have numbers from every event, but with the numbers we do have, Pierogi Fest is clearly a huge attraction. The estimated crowd at Pierogi Fest is 300,000. That is 600 times more than Whiting’s current population of about 5,000.
Labor Day celebrations in Whiting were aimed at very local crowds, primarily those who worked at the Standard Oil Refinery and their families. For that type of event, drawing 20,000 was an impressive achievement. Whiting’s 4th of July activities have long drawn from a more regional audience, primarily people from Northwest Indiana and the south Chicago suburbs. With similar celebrations happening in other nearby communities the competition is stiff for Whiting’s parade, but it keeps on drawing large numbers of people as it did again this year. Pierogi Fest has been able to achieve its impressive numbers by broadening the audience, bringing in people from Chicago, across the state, across the Midwest, and even from much further away. From an historical viewpoint, it has become Whiting’s biggest event.