Monday, May 28, 2012

Kennywood Nationality Days: Native American Day

I've worked at Kennywood Park for half of my life. 

Starting to work there when one turned 16 was quite the tradition back when I was in school, since my high school was (and still is) a stone's-throw away from the park.  Now, kids can work there as early as age 15 - some only make it a few months, or weeks, or even days, but then there are a few who are there for their entire working careers.  Some become full-timers, while others work part-time (like me) while maintaining other careers.  Regardless of the situation, working at an amusement park carries with it a certain amount of respect - long days, hot temperatures, and temperamental guests are not easy situations to endure.  Working there is a positive learning experience - one that not I, nor any other teacher, could teach in a classroom. 

I'm ashamed to admit, though, that it was only last year, during year 15 of my tenure, that I discovered how awesome and exciting the Nationality Day kitchens are.  Most people probably do not realize that on Nationality Days, most groups sell foods native to the culture in Pavilion 4, located behind the Skyrocket and Garfield's Nightmare (right next to the "big" pavilion, #5).  

Most Pittsburghers know about Italian Day, largely in part to its feature in Rick Sebak's 1988 WQED documentary "Kennywood Memories".  It is Kennywood's most well-known Nationality Day, and for good reason - Pittsburgh has a large, proud Italian population; moreover, people from other backgrounds embrace Italian culture, especially the food.  The Italian Sons & Daughters of America (ISDA) have turned Italian Day into a celebration of what it is like to be Italian in Pittsburgh - and it's awesome!

However, there are many, MANY other ethnicities that are celebrated throughout the season every year at Kennywood.  Here is the 2012 Nationality Day calendar (also viewable on Kennywood's website).  The phone number listed is the number to call for information on tickets and events for each particular picnic, as advance tickets are sold through the group (not at Kennywood):

Asian Day May 13, 2012 412.498.8411
Native American Day May 27, 2012 724-420-8392
Carpatho-Russian Day June 28, 2012 412-766-3460
Irish Day July 11, 2012 724-864-2228
Italian Day July 17, 2012 412-261-3550
Slovak Day July 19, 2012 412-243-0438
Serbian Day July 20, 2012 412-642-7372
Slovene Day July 23, 2012 724-695-1100
Greek Day July 24, 2012 412-824-5540
Byzantine Day July 26, 2012 724-495-3400
Hungarian Day August 1, 2012 724-864-0042
Shrine Family Day  August 3, 2012 724-274-7000
Polish Day August 7, 2012 412-486-1605
Jewish Community Day August 19, 2012  
Croatian Day September 1, 2012 412-823-8677

Some other picnics are well-known for certain foods - on Serbian Day and Croatian Day, lamb is sold at the kitchen (and they often run out - I learned that the hard way during last year's Serbian Day, and I was very sad).  I was able to redeem myself on Greek Day, though, by purchasing the Greek Platter, which included lamb, feta, olives, and stuffed grape leaves, while also adding some delicious baklava for a sweet dessert.  Polish Day is well-known for its stuffed cabbage, while cheregi is the popular item on Slovak Day.

I have been let down twice on Asian Day, but not due to the group itself - I was supposed to work late on Asian Day both last year and this year, and on both days, it rained.  The park closed early, and I was called off of work. 

Any ethnic group can plan a Nationality Day at Kennywood - they just have to plan it and arrange for it through the Kennywood Group Sales Office.  This was the first year that a Native American Day was celebrated at Kennywood, and I was so very, VERY excited when I saw the activity sheet, which stated that BUFFALO BURGERS would be sold at their kitchen!  I haven't had a buffalo burger since I attended a Pow Wow, planned by the same Native American group, that was held near Pitt-Greensburg when I was in college.  

I knew what I was having for dinner.

When I got to work, I became even MORE excited, because I found out that in addition to buffalo burgers, the group was also selling buffalo dogs and - wait for it - INDIAN TACOS.  I had no idea what that meant, but I knew I had to get one.

I had made several announcements about the Native American kitchen throughout the afternoon, at the direction of the Group Sales Office, and there were a few people back at the kitchen when I went on break, but not many.  I was lucky to score one of the last buffalo burgers before they packed up for the day.  Thank goodness, because it was just as I expected - delicious:

Buffalo Burger (not exciting in the picture, but WAY better than meat from a cow!)
 I had to find out what this Indian Taco was - turns out it is taco meat (ground meat in taco seasoning), lettuce, tomato, and cheese on fried dough.  Uh, yes please!:

Indian Taco
 Though a different wrapping from a "regular" taco, I really did enjoy the fried dough (and it made it seem appropriate for Kennywood - fried dough is a popular amusement park food).

The food on Kennywood's Nationality Days never disappoints.  Made by the members of the group that organizes the day, the foods are obviously made with love and care, for all who may or may not be of that particular background to enjoy.  If you visit Kennywood on a Nationality Day, whether on purpose or by accident, a stop at Pavilion 4 is definitely in order.  Don't feel cheated out of Potato Patch Fries, or a funnel cake, or a corn dog - those aren't going anywhere any time soon, and you'll probably eat more than once throughout the day (funnel cakes are great to take home, too).  Nationality Kitchens come but once a year.  Indulge.  Enjoy.  

Try something new.

Kennywood Park
4800 Kennywood Boulevard
West Mifflin, PA 15122

1 comment:

  1. Attended Greek Day at Kennywood Park in 2013. The food was excellent and the multiple dance groups put on some great performances. What really delighted me was that the food was actually modestly priced for Greek Day!