Michigan celebrates Labor Day, but with fewer parades

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Franklin — Margie and Barry Kaplan took their seats on Franklin Road, just before noon, just before Franklin Labor Day parade would begin. They got great seats. Perhaps too great.

"No parade this year," said Ron Berris. 

"That was a bummer," Margie said later.

"When you show up 15 minutes before and walk right up, you figure something's up," Barry said. 

The husband and wife attend the parade every year, and came out Monday thinking there'd be one.

After learning otherwise, they packed up their lawn chairs and headed back out for the rest of the event. There was still plenty of holiday to enjoy.

This was the Franklin Labor Day Round-up, 2021 style: back from the Covid-19 pandemic, but not all the way. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer makes her way with other walkers across the Mackinac Bridge for the annual Labor Day walk on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021.

It was a similar theme statewide. Back, but not all the way.

In Hamtramck, the annual Yacht Club Canoe Races pit teams from local bars in a push cart race down Jos. Campau. Contestants in colorful contraptions maneuvered between crowds lining the sidewalks tossing water balloons.

Elsewhere, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took part in the annual Labor Day march across the Mackinac Bridge.

“Although total participation is less than we’ve had in recent years, there were still thousands of very happy faces on the bridge, all glad to revive this tradition," said Kim Nowack, director of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. About 21,000 people walked the entire bridge, walked to the middle and returned to St. Ignace or Mackinaw City or made a 10-mile round trip.

Cancellation of the 2020 event was the first since the walk began in 1958.

 Detroit's Labor Day parade, put on by the AFL-CIO, was canceled in August for the second year in a row. 

Renee Prewitt, of Bloomfield, looks at a work of art for sale by Jim and Heather Babala, during the Franklin Labor Day Round Up, in Franklin, September 6, 2021.

The parade from the old Tiger Stadium site down Michigan Avenue to Hart Plaza usually features the Democratic presidential candidate or a high-profile surrogate because of the party's tight ties to organized labor.

But in Franklin, plenty of activities kept attendees busy. In his professional life, Berris is a dentist. On the side he participates in the Franklin-Bingham Farms reserve police force. 

His partner, Officer Cruise, is a "14- or 15-year-old" Tennessee Walker horse, Berris says.

Five-year-old Aris Keyvanian, of West Bloomfield, rides a pony during the Franklin Labor Day Round Up, in Franklin, September 6, 2021.

As families approached the horse, children would squeal in curiosity or their parents would squeal on their behalf.

Berris waved them over and encouraged them to pet Cruise's nose, and even kiss it. In the minutes leading up to noon, there were no takers on the kiss.

One of the petters was Al Stanley, 24, of Livonia.

Franklin-Bingham Farms Reserve Officer Ron Berris looks on  Monday as Al Stanley, 24, of Livonia pets Officer Cruise.

Stanley has been coming to Franklin for Labor Day all her life. On Monday she passed that tradition on to son Greyson, 3. 

"There's nowhere else to be on Labor Day," Stanley said. 

The strolling crowd was large and age-diverse. Some people wore masks; most did not. Many people brought pets.

One older couple walking Franklin Road tried to walk street-side around the horse, rather than sidewalk-side, where Cruise was facing. 

Then the 1,300-pound animal backed up into them.

"Never walk behind a horse," Berris, 72, explained to the passersby.

Franklin police Officer Logan Hall sat in the hot seat of the dunk tank. 

Children who approached were offered three tosses of a ball to hit a target and sink the officer. 

Hall's colleagues took a liberal interpretation of the rules. Whenever they deemed that a kid came close enough to hitting the mark, they'd encourage the kid to tap it by hand and sink the officer.

Franklin Police Officer Logan Hall took many a dip in the dunk tank on Labor Day 2021.

Hall was a good sport throughout.

Niki Frankfort's children are either grown, or so close to grown that petting zoos and pony rides don't hold the charm they once did.

Not the case for three nieces and nephews in town from Ohio.

Frankfort, 45, took a rest on a bench near the pony ride station as the kids made memories.

"We were pretty disappointed" that there was no parade, Frankfort said. "The little kids were disappointed. But the fair is still going on, and we've got pony rides and we're making the most out of it."

The kids were headed home later Monday afternoon, and will start school tomorrow.

After leaving the Labor Day festival, the family planned to grill up some hot dogs and enjoy the traditional last day of summer.