Food fight erupts over Pennsylvania ‘Pierogi Festival’ name

  • Aug. 1, 2017 3:00 p.m.

Like a pot of pierogies left on the stove too long, a trademark dispute involving the name of the popular Polish delicacy is threatening to boil over.

Four years ago, civic-minded residents of Edwardsville, Pennsylvania, launched a festival tied to the pierogi, the potato-filled dumpling that’s ubiquitous in a region whose coal mines drew waves of Polish immigrants more than a century ago.

The Edwardsville Pierogi Festival has been a rousing success — so much so that it’s caught the attention of a chamber of commerce in suburban Chicago, which runs a highly popular “Pierogi Fest” and says the Pennsylvania upstarts are infringing on its trademark. Lawyers for Pierogi Fest recently sent a letter demanding the Edwardsville organizers either stop using the name or pay a licensing fee.

In Edwardsville, population 4,700, the threats have gone over as well as undercooked kielbasa. The town is located in Luzerne County, the only county in the United States where Polish is the most common ancestry.

“People are beside themselves. It’s ridiculous,” said Jackie Kubish Moran, president of the Edwardsville Hometown Committee, which runs the Pennsylvania event. “There’s a lot of pride in this area when it comes to people and their heritage. They’re going to protect that.”

The food fight has landed in federal court, where lawyers for the Pennsylvania group filed a lawsuit Monday against the organizers of the event 700 miles away in Whiting, Indiana, which has been around since 1995 and draws some 300,000 people a year from around the country.

“No person on planet Earth is going to confuse the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival with a suburban Chicago ‘Pierogi Fest,’” said Jim Haggerty, the lawyer for the Edwardsville group. “We don’t think they’re acting in good faith and we think they’re bullies.”

The Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce registered Pierogi Fest as a trademark in 2007. The chamber’s lawyers say the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival is “likely to cause consumer confusion,” and are threatening to sue not only the event organizers, but its sponsors, too.

Pierogi Fest Chairman Tom Dabertin said Tuesday that his group has licensed the name to similar ethnic food festivals around the country, and is willing to talk with the Edwardsville group about a similar arrangement.

He said the chamber, which runs the festival, is justified in defending its trademark.

“Disney does it. Coca-Cola does it. Kleenex does it. If you have a trademark, you have to protect it,” he said.

Debbie Konefal, the third-generation owner of an Edwardsville restaurant that serves Polish and American cuisine, called the notion that people would confuse a pair of pierogi festivals 700 miles apart “a little silly.” Like others in Edwardsville, she was flabbergasted by the Whiting chamber’s stance.

“There is no way we could possibly in competition with them,” said Konefal, whose restaurant uses the pierogi recipe of her great aunt.

Just Posted

Poll: Advocate readers support a supervised-injection site at Turning Point

Some residents don’t want to see a safe injection site in Red Deer

Twenty more “state of emergency” shelter beds opened in Red Deer

Council told Red Deer has the lowest number of shelter spaces in the province

An international junior hockey tournament is coming to Red Deer in 2018

City grants $75,000 to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, to be co-hosted by Red Deer and Edmonton

Motorist dies near Ponoka after loose tire collides with vehicle

Police believe a semi-trailer wheel may have struck oncoming vehicle

Red Deer police seize rifles and shotguns from storage locker

A man and a woman facing nearly 200 charges after 29 firearms seized last month

Red Deer police seize rifles and shotguns from storage locker

A man and a woman facing nearly 200 charges after 29 firearms seized last month

Red Deer needs to find a solution to syringe debris: city manager

City will consider the problem during the 2018 operating budget talks

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer Dec. 10

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

VIDEO: B.C. to end geographic area rent increases, close fixed-term lease loopholes

Both clauses allowed landlords to raise rents above the max annual allowable rent increase

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

A Red Deer daycare coordinator wins provincial award of excellence

Nicole Morrell is a coordinator at Johnstone Daycare

Holiday shopping season picking up in Red Deer

With 18 shopping days left until Christmas, Red Deer businesses are cautiously… Continue reading

Gord Bamford Foundation adds more beneficiaries

The Gord Bamford Foundation has added more names of charities that will… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month