Annual ACPC Convention July 14 - 18, 2010
Rapid City, South Dakota
Deliberations in the Rapid City Radisson Hotel conference room, (l. to r.) Mary Ellen Tyszka (2nd v.p.); Bernadette Wiermanski (1st v.p.); Matt Meleski, at podium, gives report from the Credential and Grievance Committe; Debbie Majka (pres.); Marcia Lewandowski (rec. secretary)
Carving a Dream
in the Black Hills of South Dakota
A letter from Greg and Monica Biestek, who were not able to attend the Convention, was read into the minutes. It included his regrets and a $500 dollar check made out to the Pulaski Scholarship Fund. He challenged all the members of the ACPC organizations to match his gift and fund a second $5000 dollar scholarship, since it appears that in 2011 we will be able to afford only one scholarship from earnings of the fund. It was decided that this idea will be communicated to all the affiliate and supportng organizations to encourage contributions and gather sufficient funds for a second $5000 scholarship. (more information)
This years American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC) convention, organized under the theme "Carving a Dream," drew over sixty participants from various parts of the country to Rapid City, South Dakota. To set the atmosphere each arrival received a straw cowboy hat and a red bandanna at check-in. By securing housing and meeting space at the Radisson Hotel in town it was possible to conduct business discussions and organize several afternoon tours to local attractions, including Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument.
The opening ceremonies hinted that this was not going to be an ordinary convention. First among the speakers was Alan Hanks, Mayor of Rapid City, who welcomed the group to the town and to the American West. Mr. Zygmunt Matynia, Consul General of the Polish Republic in Chicago delivered the keynote address speaking passionately of the commitment Poles have made to democracy to which he added his efforts by participating in the early days of the Solidarity movement. Whitney A. Rencontre II "Standing Buffalo" chanted an anthem in the Lakota Native American language, followed by Steven Yellowhawk who sang the American national anthem in English. At lunch that day, Jasmine Pickner, from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, explained and demonstrated hoop dancing. She is highly skilled in this performance art which has spiritual and symbolic aspects. Just as we share our Polish culture, she has demonstrated her craft by travelling abroad and winning many awards in competitions in the United States and Canada. At the end several brave members of the audience accepted the invitation to join in a rudimentary lesson in hoop dancing.
Among the luncheon speakers was pianist-composer Jaroslaw Golebiowski who presented the story how, thanks to pianist Van Cliburn a Texas native-son, many of the cities in Texas now have Chopin societies. On another day we were treated to a talk by author Douglas W. Jacobson who related how, inspired in part by his Polish heritage, he came to write his World War II novel "Night of Flames." The main characters in the story are Anna and Jan Kopernik. The action starts on Sept. 1, 1939. Hes a cavalry officer, shes a lecturer at Jagiellonian University. It sounded so interesting that many listeners purchased signed copies. His next novel, to be released in May 2011, focuses on one of historys most notorious war crimes, the Katyn Massacre.
While there really was not a lot of "free time" between the discussions, speakers, deliberations and planned tours, it was possible to take walks around the downtown to look around and shop for Native American items. The town is relatively small and tourist friendly. Recently, life-size bronze statues of the presidents have been installed on street corners and Rapid City took on the sub-title "City of Presidents" as a tie-in to Mount Rushmore.
The convention committee chairs, Debbie Majka and Richard Wiermanski, did not neglect the tourist possibilities of this convention. There was a visit to "Bear Country," an animal preserve; a trip to Mount Rushmore; and a visit in Deadwood, one of the more famous Western gold-mining towns. Its best known inhabitant, Wild Bill Hickok, is immortalized in several sculptures, including the bust on his grave marker. Another portrait is a huge and very expressive stone head executed by Korczak Ziolkowski placed in a town square. Several group members could not resist the urge to get a "Fat Tire" beer at Saloon No. 10, the place were Wild Bill met his demise. The place has not changed much in a century -- sawdust on the wooden board floor, spittoons; revolvers, rifles and buffalo heads on the walls. Over the long mahogany bar are portraits of local types, prospectors and desperados. The only "new" items were a jukebox and some thirty-year-old slot machines. Dinner that night was at a family restaurant, the "Circle B Ranch." It was served chuck-wagon style -- buffalo meat, beef, chicken, potato and beans slapped on tin plates. The restaurant-shed held over 500 patrons. Before dinner, to entertain the kids, there was a non-lethal gunfight between the Circle B sheriff and the "Biscuit Bandit." As the sheriff heaved the "body" off the street he remarked, "Hes not too badly tore-up, I need the varmint to serve the beans." After-dinner entertainment consisted of the "sheriff," his real-life wife and two sons singing country music cowboy-style and cracking jokes. It was cute and just long enough.
The last tour, and most memorable, was to Korczak Ziolkowskis Crazy Horse monument, an hour-long drive into the hills. At the visitors center there was a background film that related the origins and the story of how the mountain is being sculpted -- by dynamite, bulldozer, jack-hammer and sheer persistence. There was a display of Korczaks "smaller" sculptures which is very impressive. A self-taught sculptor, he received first prize at the 1939 Worlds Fair for a rendition of Paderewskis face. After that he was contacted by Chief Standing Bear about creating a monument in the Dakota Black Hills. The rest is history. The group was driven to the vicinity of Crazy Horses face to take pictures. A trip to the top was available if one made a $125 donation (per person) and several individuals succumbed to this temptation. At the annual banquet Mary Heslin (Hartford, CT) and Jacqueline Droleski (Elmira, NY) received Founders Awards. A special cultural award plaque was given in recognition of the Crazy Horse Monument Project and was accepted by Ruth Ziolkowskis daughter Jadwiga. She spoke with many in our group and was outstandingly nice. Seven of the ten Ziolkowski children are working on the mountain. After visits to the various displays and gift shop, our group hung around for the laser show. That started rather late and it got cool as is normal in the Black Hills. During our stay the temperature was as high as 96°F (noon) and as low as 62°F (evenings) -- but with the total absence of humidity it was wonderfully pleasant all the time.
Most convention participants departed with a sigh that they had no more time to spend in this beautiful part of the country -- though several planned ahead and embarked on the second part of their vacations. All went home satisfied that much ACPC business has moved ahead, looking forward to the Convention to take place in Cleveland July 13-17, 2011. Memorable among reports given were those addressing successful ACPC projects. One was about ACPC participation in the 2009 National Conference for the Social Studies (see NCSS report) in Atlanta, where co-chairs Barbara Lemecha and Henrietta Nowakowski, with several assistants, manned the "Polish Perspectives" booth. Another, delivered by Irene and Ted Mirecki, addressed the Youth Leadership Conference (see YLC report) which they organized during June 20-26, 2010, in Washington DC.
Inspired by the memorials in the mountains a recommitment was made to erecting a Historical Marker to the original Polish colonists from 1608 at the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. Tom Payne, president of the Washington, DC, Polish American Arts Association has taken on the challenge. We are looking forward to his report in a year.
Our home-away-from-home, the Rapid City Radisson Hotel
Delegates sit in rapt attention during deliberations in the conference room
(l. to. r.) Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks and Jackie Kolowski
Luncheon speaker author Doug Jacobson (center, standng) tells how he was inspired to write a World War II novel
Hoop Dancer Jasmine Pickner, from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
After dinner entertainment at the Circle B Family Chuck-Wagon Family Restaurant.
The Detroit Group at the Circle B Family Chuck-Wagon Family Restaurant.
(l. to. r.) Irene Musman, Andrzej Pustelniak, Marie Hejnosz, Debbie Majka at Mt. Rushmore.
Group picture of most of the conventioneers at Crazy Horse monument visitors center.
Delegates of the Polish Heritage Society of Philadelphia: (front row, l. to. r). George Szymanski and wife, Debbie Majka, Teresa N. Wojcik, Marie Hejnosz, Irene Musman, Andrzej Pustelniak; (back row, l. to r.) Peter Obst, Walter Wojcik
(l. to. r.) Tom Payne, Robert and Mary Flanagan in front of the Crazy Horse monument.
Jackie Droleski (on left) receives the Founders Award from 2nd v.p. Mary Ellen Tyszka
Mary Heslin (on left) receives the Founders Award from 1st v.p. Bernadette Wiermanski
Daughter of Ruth Ziolkowski, Jadwiga (on right) accepts the special plaque of recognition from the hands of ACPC president Debbie Majka
ACPC president Debbie Majka at the Crazy Horse Monument.
On the bus to Deadwood's Boot Hill: (r. to l.) Teresa N. Wojcik, Barbara Lemecha, Jaroslaw Golebiowski, Henrietta Nowakowski
At Boot Hill in Deadwood, graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane
On Deadwood's Main Street near the notorious Saloon, No. 10, (l. to r.) Debbie Siegel, Peter Obst, Barbara Lemecha
On Main Street of Rapid City, Peter Obst poses with President Teddy Roosevelt.