GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Pulaski Days is back in Grand Rapids after COVID-19 canceled last year’s event.
The week-long festival celebrates Polish culture through music, dance and food. This year’s theme is “Keep Calm and Polka On.”
“It’s a great time for everybody to get together,” said Bob Quick, who was in attendance at the 5th Street Hall on Thursday with his wife, sister and brother-in-law.
Dave Snyder, who came with his wife, Theresa Rademecher, said, “We’re regulars. Every year we try to get out at least once a night [to] come down and enjoy it. It’s fun.”
Pulaski Days was founded in 1973 by Ed Cyzyk and Walter Ulanch as a way to support the local clubs with the entire West Michigan community.
It's named after General Casimir Pulaski, an American Revolutionary War hero and Polish immigrant. According to Pulaski Days, he was "the father of the United States Calvary, a General second to none, and a man known throughout Europe for his bravery and perseverance in defending freedom."
“A lot of halls basically need this weekend to help them survive for the year or get caught up on bills,” said Theresa Nink, president of the Pulaski Days board of directors.
Nink and her sister, Lisa Settle, who is the board’s secretary, help plan the festival each year.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced the board to call off the event. Nink and Settle said two halls almost closed because of it, but a mixture of fundraisers, grants, and creative offerings, like curbside service, kept all 14 halls open for 2021’s celebration.
“It was kind of weird not having all of the events, but they did what they could,” said Settle.
Due to the year off and nice weather, organizers expect a large crowd through the weekend.
Attendees said they’re for Pulaski Days' comeback and are ready to keep the polka going.
“It was a struggle,” said Rademecher. “You feel isolated. You feel kind of shut out from being social and enjoying a regular, happy, safe life.”
“I get so excited,” said Settle. “I live, eat and breathe Pulaski Days.”
For a full list of events, click here.