By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s annual Labor Day weekend festival looks like a go this year.
The fate of this year’s festival had been up in the air for the past few months and until this week it looked like it would actually be canceled. The city was forced to lay off its special events coordinator, among several other positions, because of a looming $700,000 budget deficit.
Without an events coordinator and a budget to cover police overtime, city officials were resigned to having no festival, at least for this year.
But within the last week, a group of mostly young adults stepped forward to organize the festival. Kathleen Bittner, whose parents own the Polish Art Center in Hamtramck, has been named the chairman of the newly-formed festival committee.
Bittner and several of her friends decided to volunteer in order to save what they consider an important part of Hamtramck.
“It has to happen,” Bittner said about continuing the festival. “It’s something Hamtramck has put on forever.”
The festival has been held every year, except for one, since 1980. State-appointed Emergency Financial Manager Lou Schimmel canceled the festival the first year he took over financial operation of the city several years ago.
The festival once rivaled the State Fair attendance-wise, but in recent years it has attracted fewer and fewer visitors. That is until last year, when the city’s special events coordinator, Eve Doster Knepp, was put in charge.
Last year was considered a spectacular success and generated enough money to pay for its bills – not counting police overtime.
Bittner said she’s hoping vendors and others will cut the city a break, considering its financial picture. She said this year’s festival will be scaled back, from a four-day festival to three days and perhaps not the entire length from Caniff to Carpenter.
The carnival rides will be coming back.
Bittner said plans call for expanding the festival to showcase the city’s diverse ethnic communities. The committee will try to get a television news channel to broadcast live during the weekend as well as a radio station.
On June 29, you can help the festival win a $10,000 cash prize by voting for it through a contest being sponsored by Magic Radio, 105.1 FM. You can vote online on that day for your favorite organization or event to win the prize.
Hamtramck is home to a number of musicians, and they will be asked to donate their talents, or at least play for a nominal sum.
Bittner wants residents to be a part of the cultural showcase by dressing up in their native folk costumes.
“Visitors can experience the whole world at the festival,” Bittner said.
To help or volunteer your services, call Bittner at (313) 874-2242.