While liquidation continues at closed Arlington Park, empty parking lots to host large Polish festival

  • Held from 2019 to 2019 near Golf Mill mall in Niles, Festival Polonaise is moving to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights this year. Though the racetrack itself is closed, the three-day event will be held in the west parking lot Aug. 19-21.

    Held from 2019 to 2019 near Golf Mill mall in Niles, Festival Polonaise is moving to Arlington Park in Arlington Heights this year. Though the racetrack itself is closed, the three-day event will be held in the west parking lot Aug. 19-21. Courtesy of Festival Polonaise

  • Festival Polonaise will attempt one of the largest versions of its namesake dance this year when the fest is held later this month on the Arlington Park grounds. The three-day event was previously held in Niles.

    Festival Polonaise will attempt one of the largest versions of its namesake dance this year when the fest is held later this month on the Arlington Park grounds. The three-day event was previously held in Niles. Courtesy of Festival Polonaise

 
 
Posted8/10/2022 5:15 AM

Even as winning bidders are picking up items from the next online auction of assets at Arlington Park, the shuttered racetrack's large parking lot will host a Polish cultural festival later this month.

Festival Polonaise, boasting a lineup of food, drink, music, dance, carnival rides and local business vendors, will be held Aug. 19-21 in the parking lot west of the dormant racing oval in Arlington Heights. Festivalgoers are asked to arrive at the Euclid Avenue entrance, or they can walk over from the track's Metra station.

 

After the historic venue held its final horse race last September -- only to have parent company Churchill Downs Inc. announce a $197.2 million sales agreement with the Chicago Bears days later -- Arlington Park management and organizers of the Polish fest talked about hosting the three-day event in one of the empty parking lots that would be available in 2022. The deal with the Bears isn't scheduled to close until 2023, after the team completes its due diligence on the sprawling 326-acre property.

"We thought it was a great location because it is basically in the center of the majority of the suburbs and the city, and the parking and everything was great for an event of that size," said Jakub Skora, one of the fest organizers.

Skora thanked track President Tony Petrillo and Vice President Ken Kiehn for their assistance with the fest, even as they're busy with the ongoing liquidation process for thousands of pieces of equipment, nostalgia and artwork inside the grandstand. The second of what's expected to be a dozen online auctions of the track's assets began last Friday. Bidding closes Aug. 16-18, followed by in-person pickups -- from the Trackside OTB entrance -- until Aug. 23.

"Tony and Ken have been great. We've had many meetings with them, and with auctions and all that stuff going on, they've been very accommodating with helping us make this event a success," Skora said.

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The festival was held at Golf Mill Park in Niles in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before taking a break the last two years because of the pandemic.

The cost of admission is a little higher than your average fest -- $40 on Friday and $45 on Saturday and Sunday -- but that's because of the big headliners that come in direct from Poland to perform, Skora said. The fest has drawn bigger and bigger crowds every year -- predominantly the large Polish community that comes later in the evening for the concerts, but also many others who arrive earlier for the food and family activities, he said.

For example, this year's lineup features Kamil Bednarek, a contestant on a nationally televised Polish talent show, and Bajm, a pop-rock band that started in 1978 in Poland.

Chicago-based performers Kaeyra, coming off a performance at Lollapalooza, and 7th heaven, the popular rock group on the suburban festival circuit, are also scheduled to perform.

Festival hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Aug. 19, 3 to 11 p.m. Aug. 20, and noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 21. For tickets, visit festivalpolonaise.com.

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