The 40th annual Hamtramck Labor Day Fest: Rock and roll, kebabs, wrestling, games and more

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Pierogi, polka, shawarma, wrestling, kebab and rock and roll converge this weekend at the 40th annual Hamtramck Labor Day Festival in downtown Hamtramck.

The free, family-friendly event runs Saturday through Monday with live music on two stages, local and regional food vendors and a carnival.

Monday things get slippery with the annual canoe races, where folks from local bars build push-cart style "boats" and race down Jos Campau while the audience soaks them with water balloons and the like. This is followed by the annual Polish Day Parade celebrating Labor Day at 1:30 p.m. with this year's Grand Marshal is musician "Big Daddy" Marshall Lackowski. 

“Hamtramck is unique,” said festival committee member Mickey Lyons. “Because of the diversity of the kinds of people who live in Hamtramck and the people who put the festival on as well as the musical acts, it’s really local and it’s just this sort of casual, funky flavor you don’t see at a lot of festivals.” 

Team members from Kelly's Bar get soaked racing in the Hamtramck Yacht Race at the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival in Hamtramck, Mich. on Sept. 4, 2017. 
(Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Some musical highlights this year are newer acts like Stephanie Cox, Nique Love Rhodes and Shadow Show joining festival stalwarts like Danny D and the Polish Muslims, who have performed on Sunday night for many, many years.

The festival overall is seen as a homecoming of sorts, not just for those who used to live in the city, but for longtime fans of the Polish Muslims, which has been a band for several decades and recently suffered the loss of longtime drummer Mike Miller. 

The Polish Muslims perform Sunday evening at the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.

"We do see the festival as a homecoming for our fans… especially since it’s free, and many of them are far too mature and smart to pay to see us anymore," jokes the band's guitarist Dave Uchalik. He said Miller was "our Ringo" and that the band will dedicate their festival performance to him. "We just wrote an original song for him that we will perform there, simply called 'Mike' ... his son, Evan Miller, is going to sit in on drums for a song or two." 

The canoe races and songs from the Polish Muslims are staples of the annual festival, but this year brings some new elements, too. 

Joining the Polish, Middle Eastern and carnival food this year is the popular doner kabob sandwich from new restaurant Balkan House. This year's festival line up also has a wrestling match at 4 p.m. Sunday with International Big Time Wrestling. 

Lyons said the Detroit City FC soccer club will have a booth at this year's event, too. On Saturday, the team, which calls Hamtramck's Keyworth Stadium home, will sell tickets to that night's game against the Philadelphia Fury for just $5.

Twitter: @melodybaetens

40th Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Noon-10 p.m. Sat.-Mon.

Jos Campau north of Caniff, Hamtramck

Free Admission


South Stage

2 p.m.: Sugar Tradition

3 p.m.: Michael Hurtt and the New Orleans Howlers

4 p.m.: Stephanie Cox

5 p.m.: Cruising the Barrio

6 p.m.: Nique Love Rhodes

Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience performs Dec. 29 at Tangent Gallery and Hastings Street Ballroom

7 p.m.: Midas

8 p.m.: Icey Dicey

9 p.m.: Easy Action

North Stage

1:30 p.m.: Unreal Being

2:30 p.m.: Johnny Salvage

3:30 p.m.: Croy and Boys

4:30 p.m.: Duane D313

5:30 p.m.: Pancho Villa's Skull

6:30 p.m.: Vvisionss

7:30 p.m.: Shadow Show

8:30 p.m.: Wiccans


South Stage

2 p.m.: Yowes O'Growie

3 p.m.: 75 Days of Sun

4 p.m.: Carolyn Striho Group

5 p.m.: Danny D Group

7 p.m.: Polish Muslims

Near South Stage

4 p.m.: International Big Time Wrestling

North Stage

1:30 p.m.: Brenda

2:30 p.m.: Toeheads

3:30 p.m.: Bastardous

4:30 p.m.: Vespre

5:30 p.m.: Dirty Copper

6:30 p.m.: Sick Smile

7:30 p.m.: High Strung

8:30 p.m.: Moonwalks


Noon: Hamtramck Yacht Club Canoe Races

1:30 p.m.: Polish Day Parade with Grand Marshall "Big Daddy" Lackowski

South Stage

3 p.m.: Kielbasa Kings

4 p.m.: Sold Only as Curio

5 p.m.: Virginia Violet and the Rays

6 p.m.: The Stools

7 p.m.: Milk Bath

8 p.m.: Paint Thinner

9 p.m.: The Paybacks

North Stage

2:30 p.m: King Creoles

3:30 p.m.: The Strains

4:30 p.m.: Devious Ones

5:30 p.m.: Feelings

6:30 p.m.: Market

7:30 p.m.: Sheefy McFly

8:30 p.m.: Asher Perkins