Grand Rapids has historically been known for Its ethnic groups that settled the area. None is more prolific of those early decades as the Polish immigrants. Woven throughout the west side are seven “Polish halls,” as they are called, and two Lithuanian halls. There are also three Polish halls on the east side. Each opens its doors to all the first weekend in October for the annual festival known as Pulaski Days. It was started in 1973 by Edward Czyzyk and Walter Ulanch at Diamond Hall, and it has grown into four days of festivities. Even those who have moved away often come back for the weekend to see old friends and make new ones.
Most halls are affiliated with a nearby Catholic church, and began as a way to help new Polish immigrants integrate into their new community. One in particular is 5th Street Hall, originally known as “St. Adalbert’s Fraternal Aid Society.” Founded in 1872, it is the oldest fraternal society operating in Michigan, according to the Polish Heritage Society. The society helped create the Basilica of St. Adalbert and was the first Polish Catholic church in Grand Rapids. There are two Lithuanian halls that were started for the same purpose; community. Vytautas Hall, which was founded in 1910, and Sons & Daughters Hall founded in 1912.
The hall buildings are over 100 years old and are important facets of the Grand Rapids architectural landscape. St. Adalbert’s 5th Street Hall was built in 1872; Knights of St. Casimir’s 6th Street Hall, 1895; Polish National Aid Society (Jackson Street Hall), 1888; Eastern Avenue Hall 1896; St. Stanislaus Aid Society (Little Hall), 1898; Kosciuszko Hall, 1903; St. Ladislaus Hall, 1904; St. George’s Hall, 1905; Diamond Hall, 1907; and Polish Falcons, 1927.
Pulaski Days would not be complete without delicious Polish food. Each year there is a kielbasa eating contest, and many halls take the opportunity to showcase homemade offerings such as Golumbki, Pierogis, Kielbasa, and Kapusta, to name a few. Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy. If staying home, might we suggest this golumpki recipe?
While the halls are main stops, many other nearby establishments open doors to celebrate. American Legion Post 459, Logan’s Alley, Bob’s Bar, Birch Lodge, Maggie’s Bar and Knights of Columbus Hall are a few of note, and some serve Polish food throughout Pulaski Days, as well.
Most halls also feature music by bands or DJ’S to get everyone dancing. Some popular Polish bands who have played each year are The Stan Mroz Orchestra, The Ray Watkoski Band, Gary Szotko, Gerry Kaminski’s Polka Network, and the ever popular Scottville Clown Band. While polka music is traditional, each club offers current bands and music too.
The Pulaski parade is Saturday morning and will be on the east side this year on Michigan Street. Featuring a float competition and bands, it’s a great way to start the day!
There is also usually a free shuttle service between halls. The schedule for Pulaski Days 2023, Oct. 6-8, is available at pulaskidays.org.