Whitmer, Gilchrist join Paczki Run to kick off week-long celebration
Hamtramck — A week-long celebration kicked off with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer eating a paczki after finishing a 5K Saturday with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and 2,000 runners in downtown Hamtramck.
In its seventh year, runners braved the cold windchill to join the Paczki Run annually held on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Polka music from the Misty Blues could be heard throughout Joseph Campau Avenue in the city that boasts "the world in two square miles."
The event kicked off Eight Great Days in Hamtramck, which includes the run, Hamtramck's Music Festival March 7-9 and special events including food, shopping and art fairs.
Tour de Troit, which hosts six events each year in support of raising funds for greenways in Detroit, also hosts the Paczki Run and has raised more than $30,000 for the Hamtramck Downtown Development Authority to assist with its non-motorized transportation plans.
More people turned out Saturday than in years prior when the weather was almost unbearable, said Vittoria Katanski, director of Tour de Troit.
"This is the only race in America where you are rewarded with a paczek and a beer after a run," Katanski said. "Last year, we had 10 inches of snow and the year before the temperatures were in the 50s. You never know what to expect from the weather, but you can always expect a fun and unique time."
Whitmer joined the run as part of her New Years resolution to do 60K in races throughout the state in 2019. Gilchrist, a University of Michigan fan, ran the race with his wife and two children in a Michigan State University sweater after losing a bet to Whitmer earlier this week.
"I'm so happy to be here and encourage Michigan residents to be fit and keep exercising," said Whitmer, who tried to stick to one paczki after the race.
The week-long event closes down the city and celebrates Hamtramck's rich immigrant cultures, said Mayor Karen Majewski, who dressed in her traditional Polish skirt.
"You can get a paczki now just about anywhere but there's no experience like coming down to Hamtramck for the run, the people and the fun atmosphere," Majewski said. "This run has taken off like crazy, Tuesday is insane in town. It's a state holiday and Hamtramck is ground zero."
Kate and Dan Berardo, a Polish couple from Royal Oak who ran the race in 2014, were eager to run Saturday so they could scout out new places to eat and visit.
"It seems like the city has grown and is invigorating," said Kate Berardo, 30. "We're hopefully going to run a half marathon this year and this is a good start to our training."
Many runners were eager to visit Motor City Sports Bar across from the finish line to try their cheeseburger made with a grilled, sliced paczek instead of a bun. Others said they ran the race to feel less guilty about eating a baker's dozen of paczki this week or a large meal at Polish Village Cafe, runner Jennifer Beljak said.
"I used to work in Hamtramck in 1997 in Cablevision and this place is just wonderful," said Beljak, from Wyandotte, who brought her friends from work and college to run with her. "It has Polka music, beer and is a great first race for people who don't run so much."