In Hamtramck, the Labor Day Festival is a labor of love

The Hamtramck Labor Day Festival will celebrate its 43rd year this weekend. The festival, which is free to attend, runs Sept. 2-4 on Jos. Campau between Caniff and Carpenter.


By Charles Sercombe
It’s hard to believe, but summer’s end is coming up this weekend.
And you know what that means: It’s time to throw a celebration.
This weekend is once again – for the 43rd year – time for the annual Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.
While Labor Day is not officially the end of summer, it does signal the near-end of this season, and the beginning of school. We’ve already gotten a hint of fall with the recent cooler days and nights.
Hamtramck (no, not you Detroit, nor that certain city to the north of Hamtramck) knows how to throw a party.
By the looks of it, this year’s festival (Sept. 2-4) is shaping up to be one of the THE best. We don’t know why, but there is just a general buzz in the air about it.
Festival organizers say they have more of everything this year – including vintage clothing and goods vendors, and even more food selections.
And the foods so far include tastes of India, Africa, Mexico, the Middle-East, Bosnia, Poland, and, maybe, more. Such as, of course, the traditional barbecue offerings.
You like ice cream? The festival will be serving up nothing but the best from Michigan’s very own Ray’s Ice Cream.
Of course, there will be plenty of cold beer and drinks for those who imbibe. Once again, there will be a midway, with both rides and games of “skill.”
Special features include the return of International Big Time Wrestling on both Sunday and Monday (at 3 p.m.), and the ever-popular Canoe Race on Monday, at high noon.
For those who are unfamiliar, this canoe race is not exactly in the water – although water plays a huge part. Instead, the “canoes” are homemade contraptions, usually in a wedge-shape, that are on wheels and pushed by most-likely-drunken maniacs, or maybe just plain-old sober maniacs.
As for the water part, that’s where spectators (and even the participants themselves) come into play. Have you been itchin’ to throw a water balloon at someone without getting handcuffs slapped on you by a cop? Well, here’s your chance to take aim and make a splash.
We promise, it’s all legal.
If you come, be prepared to get a soaking because this is an anything goes kind of a day.
Confused? Just show up, and take it all in.
The weekend is also all about music — on all three days of the fest. Live performances start around noon-ish on some days, and about 1 p.m. on others, and go on all through the day and evening.
See below for more details about the music line-up.
The highlight for the weekend is the Hamtramck Labor Day Parade on Monday, starting at 1:30 p.m.
Last year was the first year without the Polish Day Parade, so it was up to the locals to pull something together. And boy, did they ever.
It was the very best parade the city experienced in quite a few years, and this year, we hear, organizers ratcheted it up several notches.
Mickey Lyons said it best, on a recent Hamtramck Facebook posting:
“Our parade includes vintage cars, Hussars on horses, dancers of just about every nation here in Hamtramck, bands, and general Hamtramck weirdos, just as it should. …”
The parade’s grand marshal this year is “Friendly the Bear” (who is also known as “Friendly the Dumpster Bear”), who is the team mascot for the Detroit City Football Club. If you hang around after the parade, you’ll be able to pose for a picture with Friendly.
You should know, this is an all-volunteer event where none of the organizers get paid.
The two fellas who helm this are Konrad Maziarz (otherwise known as the city’s mild-mannered city assessor) and impresario by day (and night), Shannon Lowell.
They’ve been shouldering this thing for too many years to count, and are the ones who have to take on the grief and frustration of dealing with everything.
In a press release issued by the festival folks, Maziarz had this to say about the weekend:
“The bands, the vendors, the music, the parade…we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making this year’s festival one of our best yet.
“We really want to show off what a welcoming place our festival is, to so many different people. It’s going to be a busy weekend, and we know it’ll be a great one for everyone, and, as always, free to attend.
“We’re grateful to our dedicated sponsors, the Hamtramck DDA, Weiss Distilling, and everyone else who’s stuck with us and helped us make this great weekend happen.”
Posted Sept. 1, 2023

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