For the first time in 47 years, Pulaski Days was canceled because of the concerns of the spread of the new coronavirus.
The weeklong Polish/Lithuanian cultural celebration event drew more than 300,000 people last year, and the annual event features a flag-raising ceremony, parade, golf outing, coronation of the Pulaski Days queen, kielbasa eating contest, Polka Mass and three days of music and food.
Michelle Kershner, chairperson of the Pulaski Days Committee, the umbrella organization that coordinates the efforts of 14 Polish/Lithuanian halls and fraternal organizations that fund and put on the celebration, said masks at close quarters indoors and social distancing requirements runs counter to everything that makes Pulaski Days a popular event.
“The heart of Pulaski Days is to be social — eat, dance and get together with family and old friends and make new friends,” she said. “Now, how are you going to do that standing 6 feet from someone with your mask on?”
Pulaski Days is not only a cultural celebration, it is a financial driver for Polish/Lithuanian halls and fraternal organizations, said Jim Seppala, president of Diamond Avenue Hall – St. Isidore’s Benevolent Aid Society, 435 Diamond Ave. NE.
“We depend on Pulaski Days as a major source of our annual operating budget,” he said. “We run a tight ship financially, but no matter how you cut it, we are going to feel the pinch that the event isn’t being held this year. Regardless, we know that we are doing the right thing. We have to make sure that our volunteers and visitors remain healthy during this pandemic.”
The committee is trying to make up some of its revenue by offering drive-thru service where customers could pick up combo plates of Polish food, T-shirts, can koozies and other items without leaving their cars.
Nevertheless, Kershner said they will need additional help to keep their doors open for next year.
To assist, the Pulaski Days Committee is asking individuals to buy pins and Polish shields at local businesses such as Sobie Meats, 3450 Remembrance Road NW, and Lewandoski Meats, 1107 Walker Ave. NW. The committee also is asking for charitable contributions to Save The Halls, an emergency fund. All of the money collected will be split equally among all of the halls, Kershner said.
Contributions to Save the Halls can be made in person at the Grand Rapids branch of Credit Union ONE, 1609 Walker Ave. NW, and online at pulaskidays.org.