By BETH ALTENA
“What was here thirty years ago?” asked Don Kurlyowicz of the now bustling Village of Cannonsburg. Kurlyowicz described the reason he has for planning a most ambitious celebration of the anniversary of the rebirth of the village.
“The mill was abandoned, the bar was less than desirable,” he described. There really wasn’t much else happening in the little burg. Today it is a busy little community where people come to dine, relax, recreate, shop, participate in festivals, a duathalon and more. It is a community with a heart and soul.
Kurlyowicz said the strong sense of caring and community of Cannonsburg was illustrated recently when a child went missing. When the panicked parents contacted the fire department to help find the child, diners at the Honeycreek, residents and others all jumped right in to aid in the search. “Turns out the boy had become frightened and was hiding in the closet in his room,” said Kurlyowicz. “It didn’t matter, no one minded, they just wanted to help,” he said of the volunteer effort.
The story is actually what Kurlyowicz would expect in his thirty years of residing over the business district of Cannonsburg. In that three decades he has watched a community come together, from the schools to the people. No where more is the enjoyment of belonging evident than during the every-other year celebration Kurlyowicz organizes for the town and all who want to visit.
His festivals are examples of old-fashioned fun, no bling, no high tech, just people interacting with activities such as duck races, pie eating contests, horseshoes, live bands, kids crafts and bake sales. People love it and Kurlyowicz loves hosting the event. In 2013 Kurlyowicz will up the ante for his community and offer something even more extraordinary—a direct-flight trip to Ireland.
“People ask me, why go to Ireland when you are Polish,” he stated. “I tell them a Polack going to Poland isn’t news.” Kurlyowicz is inviting all who want to go—not just residents of Cannonsburg—to sign up for an all inclusive “Pubs and Clubs” trip to Ireland that will include tours of castles, golfing or shopping, perhaps a bicycle trip and ample opportunity to either stay with the group or set out alone to experience the magical country. He believes he can cap the cost of the trip at about $2,500 per person and perhaps even less.
There will be an informational kick-off meeting at Cannonsburg Ski Lodge on Thursday, December 6 at 6:30 p.m. with a live Irish band and Irish hors douvres such as drunken mushrooms, mini reubens and Irish cheeses. There might be “a bit o’ the Irish water.” The event is free and open to the public.
Typical of Kurlyowicz, the trip will be one-of-kind. He is confident enough folks will sign on that he will be able to charter a flight straight from Grand Rapids to Ireland. Travelers will enjoy on-board Irish entertainment including a live band. The trip will involve historic, traditional tours, such as visiting castles and the Blarney Stone. It will also feature flexibility for individuals or families to venture off on their own day trips, golf, shop, bike, perhaps visit a cheese farm or Waterford Crystal production or the Cliffs of Dorr. A local and trusted travel agency, Antor Travel, is handling arrangements, so travelers will be in good hands.
Kurlyowicz bought the bar in August of 1983 and spent the next months in paperwork and renovations. He closed on March 5 for final renovations and reopened the business on March 23 and has been going strong ever since.
Kurlyowicz said he had attended college with no idea what he wanted to do in life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work, an associate’s degree in urban planning and a master’s degree in business. On a whim, as a young man with little money and no real experience, he went into the restaurant business. His menu at first was hot dogs and nachos.
Over the years he watched his own business grow and expand and opened other businesses in the tiny downtown of Cannonsburg. As the community supported his efforts and allowed him to continue improvements, he was determined to give back as much as possible, involving school kids and residents in a variety of events. He has always invited all who want to visit to share in the festivities, celebrating time-honored traditional activities and fun. He sees this 2013 trip as more of the same, but in a much bigger way. “I want this to be the adventure people remember all their lives. How do you mark a moment in time? You create a memory.”