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Family reunion marks 100 years of farm buy

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>From left, Sophie Swiercz, Stachia Plaza, and Joanna Hayes dance to polka music at the Plaza family reunion celebrating the family owning their farm in Shutesbury for 100 years. Plaza was born the same year the family purchased the farm.

    Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney
    From left, Sophie Swiercz, Stachia Plaza, and Joanna Hayes dance to polka music at the Plaza family reunion celebrating the family owning their farm in Shutesbury for 100 years. Plaza was born the same year the family purchased the farm.

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>The Three Koleges, meaning the three friends, performed at the Plaza family reunion celebrating 100 years of owning their farm in Shutesbury on August 3, 2013. The band's members include, from left,  Steve Ciechomshki, Mitch Biskup, and Tom Kostek.

    Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney
    The Three Koleges, meaning the three friends, performed at the Plaza family reunion celebrating 100 years of owning their farm in Shutesbury on August 3, 2013. The band's members include, from left, Steve Ciechomshki, Mitch Biskup, and Tom Kostek.

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>The Plaza family and their friends gather for a group picture during their family reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Plaza farm in Shutesbury on Saturday.

    Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney
    The Plaza family and their friends gather for a group picture during their family reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Plaza farm in Shutesbury on Saturday.

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>Maddie Biron, 16, pets one of the horses during the Plaza family reunion on August 3, 2013. The reunion was held to celebrate the farm being in the family for 100 years and over 200 people attended.

    Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney
    Maddie Biron, 16, pets one of the horses during the Plaza family reunion on August 3, 2013. The reunion was held to celebrate the farm being in the family for 100 years and over 200 people attended.

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>From left, Joanna Hayes, Sopie Swiercz, and Louise Bartos,  sit in front of one of the buildings on the Plaza Farm which has been in their family for 100 years. All three sisters were born on there and Hayes still lives on the farm in Shutesbury. The family had a reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary on Saturday.

    Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney
    From left, Joanna Hayes, Sopie Swiercz, and Louise Bartos, sit in front of one of the buildings on the Plaza Farm which has been in their family for 100 years. All three sisters were born on there and Hayes still lives on the farm in Shutesbury. The family had a reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary on Saturday.

  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>From left, Sophie Swiercz, Stachia Plaza, and Joanna Hayes dance to polka music at the Plaza family reunion celebrating the family owning their farm in Shutesbury for 100 years. Plaza was born the same year the family purchased the farm.
  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>The Three Koleges, meaning the three friends, performed at the Plaza family reunion celebrating 100 years of owning their farm in Shutesbury on August 3, 2013. The band's members include, from left,  Steve Ciechomshki, Mitch Biskup, and Tom Kostek.
  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>The Plaza family and their friends gather for a group picture during their family reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Plaza farm in Shutesbury on Saturday.
  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>Maddie Biron, 16, pets one of the horses during the Plaza family reunion on August 3, 2013. The reunion was held to celebrate the farm being in the family for 100 years and over 200 people attended.
  • Special to The Recorder/Ayrika Whitney<br/>From left, Joanna Hayes, Sopie Swiercz, and Louise Bartos,  sit in front of one of the buildings on the Plaza Farm which has been in their family for 100 years. All three sisters were born on there and Hayes still lives on the farm in Shutesbury. The family had a reunion to celebrate the 100th anniversary on Saturday.

SHUTESBURY — When Polish immigrant John Plaza moved his family from New Jersey to Shutesbury and purchased a small farm in 1913, he had no way of knowing that exactly one century later, it would become the site of an event that would bring together hundreds of his descendants.

Saturday, nearly 250 family members and friends of Plaza’s vast bloodline converged on the farm — now owned by the youngest of his 13 children, Joanne Hayes — where a family reunion was held to mark the 100th anniversary of the original purchase.

Partygoers spent the day catching up with relatives they hadn’t seen in years, meeting new ones, feasting on a buffet-style lunch complete with a fried dough cart, and dancing to live polka music.

“I feel like we have our own personal carnival here,” said Pamela Yablonski, whose father, Joseph, was born on the farm. “It’s my favorite thing in the whole world to have all our family together.” Some members of the family had traveled from as far as Denver and San Francisco to attend the reunion.

“We have people from all over the country coming, which is nice,” said Dan Hayes, Joanne’s son and one of the event’s main organizers. “There’s people from Louisiana, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, South Carolina and so on. It’s hard to believe it’s been 100 years.”

“It’s really something else — I wasn’t expecting it to be this big,” said Steve Bartos, 28, of Denver. “It’s good to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a while, and I’ll probably meet some that I’ve never met before.”

On the wall of the farm’s barn, posters were on display showcasing an enormous family tree, a series of photographs of family members who live in Poland and of the farm’s original occupants, and a number of historical documents showing land purchases made to expand the farm over the years.

According to Louise Bartos, another of Plaza’s three remaining living children, Plaza originally came to the United States at the age of 15, when his father snuck him out of Galicia, Poland, and onto a boat under cover of the night to avoid having him drafted into the army.

“His father was a counselor, so he knew that the (government was) going to send all the young boys to fight,” said Bartos.

Once he had passed through the immigration process at Ellis Island, Plaza moved to New Jersey, where he met his wife, Katherine, and had three children. On the advice of a friend, Plaza moved his family to Shutesbury and purchased the farm, where he and Katherine had 10 more children, all of whom were born inside the farmhouse.

Over the years, the family worked the farm to produce dairy and meat products, corn, potatoes, apples and tobacco. In 1938, Plaza started a lumber business after the famous hurricane brought down a large number of trees around the farm. Plaza was also heavily involved in the community, and served as a selectman and the town’s superintendent of streets before dying in 1965.

According to Diane Bartos-Dobratz, Louise’s daughter, that original family has resulted in three additional generations of offspring, including 42 second-generation, 68 third-generation and 60 fourth-generation members.

Louise Bartos said the idea to hold the anniversary party originated at another family reunion that was held five years prior.

“Five years ago, we had a Plaza family reunion here, and Joanne and Raymond Hayes said ‘The farm is going to be one hundred years old in 2013, so let’s have a celebration for the buying of the house,’” she said. “We even have the original deed on display in the barn.”

“It’s pretty exciting that they’ve been able to keep the family together and keep tradition,” said Cara Bartos of South Carolina, as she held her young son, Evan, one of the constantly growing family’s newest members.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic to get together with a bunch of aunts, uncles and friends that you haven’t seen in over 20 years,” said another family member, Kenneth Moulton of Guilford, Vt.

Another family member, Alfred Pinciak, who led the family in a prayer before lunch was served, noted that “one of the big problems today is that people keep forgetting their family, and when you get down to the final analysis, that’s the most important thing.

“Family becomes more important than anything else. This is a really great thing.”

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