With one last blowout summer weekend, three different Labor Day festivals — each with its own distinct personality — beckon for your attention.
Metro Detroiters can choose from the 38th-annual Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, the Michigan State Fair, and the 20th-annual Arts, Beats & Eats, all happening simultaneously.
Rock ‘n’ roll, barnyard animals, food for days, Ferris wheels and a “yacht race” down Joseph Campau. What more do you need for a great weekend?
Kick things off at Jos. Campau and Caniff Saturday in beautiful downtown Hamtramck.
The fun runs every day through Monday from noon to 10 p.m., featuring music on two stages, Polish food galore, a 5K fun run and a parade with the requisite floats.
The festival’s website promises “pure, unadulterated madness,” and indeed, there’s a daffy, grassroots quality to the Hamtown festival that sets it apart. Even better — you don’t have to pay to get in.
Surely taking the prize for wacky will be the Yacht Race down Jos. Campau.
“We set up a course and they run through it,” said festival co-chairman Shannon P. Lowell, who owns Cafe 1923.
“It’s a spectacle. And the water aspect comes from balloons, hoses and super-soakers — whatever the kids can throw. Then everyone cleans up,” he added, “gets back in line and we wait for the parade to come down the road.”
And if you’d rather not fight for a parking space, consider biking to the festival. Wheelhouse Detroit will be offering free bike valet service at Jos. Campau and Caniff.
Michigan State Fair
The big news at the Michigan State Fair this year is that, well, it’s going to be bigger.
The revived fair, now in its fifth year at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, “is actually bigger geographically than it has ever been,” said fair Executive Director Steve Masters, at least since its move out of the city of Detroit.
“We’ve got more rides and more attractions than we’ve ever offered our guests in the past,” he added.
Running 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, the fair — staying close to its agricultural roots — boasts over 100 farmers bringing barnyard animals to wow a largely suburban and urban audience. (Livestock exhibits close at 5 p.m.)
But if nursing calves doesn’t do it for you, check out the Shrine Circus, which perform four times daily (just three on Monday). Or kick back for Friday Night Flights, a beer-tasting extravaganza featuring brew from Roak, Short’s, Oddside Ales and Jolly Pumpkin.
And not to be outdone by little old Hamtramck, there will be a Monday parade down Taft Road to Grand River starting at 10 a.m.
Arts, Beats & Eats
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Arts Beats & Eats will once again bring nationally known music groups and astonishing local food to Royal Oak’s downtown.
Indeed, with 200 bands rocking 10 stages, music dominates this festival like no other.
Name-brand performers this year include the B-52s, 311, George Clinton, Dwight Yoakam and Grand Funk Railroad, as well as Detroit’s own Thornetta Davis and The Orbitsons.
Food from over 40 Metro-area restaurants and catering services will delight every palate. New this year are GreenSpace Cafe, Bonefish Grill, Sedona Taphouse, LazyBones Smokehouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Vegans and vegetarians will rejoice at the festival’s Veggie Cafe, or they can catch the Nosh Pit vegetarian food truck.
Got youngsters? Don’t miss the interactive Oakland County Kids Stage, which will kick off with a performance by the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music.
And inquisitive youngsters will enjoy the Science Spectacular show put on by the Michigan Science Center, with tons of exciting demonstrations in chemistry, physics and more.
Hamtramck Labor Day Festival
Noon -10 p.m. Sat.-Mon.
Jos. Campau at Caniff, Hamtramck
Michigan State Fair
10 a.m.- 10 p.m. Thur.-Sun; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.
Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River, Novi
Tickets: $8 adults, $6 children, fair-only admission (circus, rides extra) ; $30 Ultimate Wristband includes fair entry, unlimited carnival rides and circus performances
Arts, Beats & Eats
Along South Lafayette and South Main in downtown Royal Oak
Tickets: Free Friday until 5 p.m; otherwise $3-$7 depending on the time of day you arrive