In front of a cheering crowd, Epiphany of Our Lord’s three pierogi ladies rushed to the stage as the Monessen church was named the Ultimate Pittsburgh Pierogi on Sunday at Kennywood Park.
Winning felt “doughy and fluffy,” one said after accepting the award.
Receiving 86 percent of votes in the championship round, the Monessen church took the top spot of the Ultimate Pittsburgh Pierogi Bracket, presented in partnership with KDKA-TV and the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. They won an award to display, along with bragging rights.
Representatives from Epiphany — and runner-up St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church of Brighton Heights — were both at the festival for the announcement.
Incline readers who initially nominated Epiphany of Our Lord for the bracket gushed about the taste of Epiphany’s pierogies and said they were “delicious homemade cheesy, buttery goodness” and “made with love.”
Tens of thousands of votes were cast throughout the bracket, and voters quickly eliminated pierogies with unique and unusual fillings in favor of that classic, homemade style. After a few rounds, only church pierogies remained.
Epiphany, a strong competitor for the entire contest, was the most voted-in race and the contender with the most votes in each round of the bracket. The championship round was the church’s highest winning percentage, although the Elite Eight was a close second when Epiphany earned 85 percent of the vote.
On Sunday, members of the church credited their loyal community and friends for propelling Epiphany to the top.
Here’s a look back at the contest:
‘Be the pierogi’
Epiphany specializes in potato and cheese pierogies made by a crew of 30 to 50 volunteers. Those pierogies are sold just a few times a year — at the summer church festival, ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and ahead of and during Lent.
Keep an eye on the church’s website and bulletin for more details including price. The profits are included in festival and fish fry proceeds and go to church’s general fund.
The recipe has been passed down for 27 years, and “if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” volunteer Evelyn Yatchyshyn said.
Why have the pierogies remained so popular?
Because they’re made with love, Yatchyshyn said.
When volunteers make the pierogies, everyone is happy and having fun, said Gene Yatchyshyn, her husband.
And while making pierogies is a longstanding tradition for the church and its members, it’s the Epiphany Pierogi Ladies who stole the show this year.
It all started during the planning of the church’s summer festival, said Evelyn Yatchyshyn, when someone suggested calling the Pirates to have their pierogies come to the festival.
“The next thing you know, we had the church pierogi ladies,” she said of the trio of handmade costumes.
To promote the festival, the pierogi ladies went all around Monessen — they pumped gas for people, bagged groceries and were even “locked up in jail.”
“We had so much fun,” said Yatchyshyn, one of the pierogi ladies, adding that normally she wouldn’t be so outgoing, so it helped to take on the character persona — “Be the pierogi.”
After winning the bracket on Sunday, the pierogi ladies posed for photos. And when a polka band took the stage, they took to the dance floor.