Food fight erupts over Pennsylvania 'Pierogi Festival' name

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 2, 2017

A food fight is underway between the organizers of pierogi festivals in IN and Luzerne County.

Whiting, Indiana pierogi fest chairman Tom Dabertin said he hopes organizers of the two pierogi festivals can work out a deal.

"It's very simple. We own the trademark and we have to protect it", Dabertin said Tuesday, a day after a group of Luzerne County lawyers filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to allow Edwardsville's event, the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival, to keep its name.

Both festivals are built around the popular Polish delicacy.

The chamber has demanded the Edwardsville committee stop using the term pierogi festival or pay money to the chamber to continue using the term.

Attorney and Mayor of Kingston Jim Haggerty told Eyewitness News they filed a preemptive suit in federal court in Scranton.

"We have a trademark to protect our rights", Dabertin said. Now, they're anxious about getting sued by an IN community with a more established and much larger pierogi festival. Dabertin also said he had no information about whether the Whiting-Robertsdale chamber attorney sent correspondence to the Pennsylvania festival's sponsors. Roberts asked. "There's wine festivals, there's, well maybe no other pierogi festivals".

A group in Edwardsville started the yearly pierogi festival four years ago to bring people to the borough and raise money for community projects.

"When you have trademark rights, you have to protect them", Dabertin said.

Food fight erupts over Pennsylvania 'Pierogi Festival' name

Local attorneys Gregory Fellerman and Corey Suda, of Fellerman and Ciarimboli Law P.C., worked pro bono with attorney James Haggerty to prepare the Edwardsville filing, which seeks a declaration that the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival is not a trademark infringement.

But attorneys in Edwardsville aren't buying it. After all, they argue, the fests are held some 700 miles away, and are unlikely to attract the same consumers.

Haggerty said the local committee is on solid legal ground.

"The Hometown Committee has done nothing wrong and it is now being shamelessly threatened with what is essentially a shakedown", Suda said.

People with the local pierogi festival anxious these threats would end their four-year-old event. The U.S. Census Bureau has determined that Luzerne County is the only county in the country where Polish is the most prevalent ethnic group, it said.

"Why would they bother a small community like ours?"

Likewise, Polish is the most common ancestry in the city of Whiting, Indiana, which is located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, just outside Chicago.

The committee has been threatened with a federal lawsuit by the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce Whiting, Indiana, an area about 30 minutes from downtown Chicago.

"Our Hometown Committee is a group of local volunteers who are simply trying to help their community", said Jackie Kubish Moran, president of the group.

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