PACZKI DAY, FEBRUARY 20th, 2007
Polish Detroit’s annual calorie carnival began early for the producers of ‘Our
Polish Story’ since part of the fun of this Tuesday-before-Ash Wednesday is capturing the early morning activity in Hamtramck, where local bakeries have been rolling dough balls for days (some, for weeks) in preparation of the day.
Paczki, those ultra-rich, fat-filled and addictively delicious Polish donuts, are part of Polish communities everywhere, but have been adopted especially in Detroit as an annual festival day as important to Detroit culture as Mexicantown’s Cinco de Mayo or Corktown’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Catching the bakeries at their busiest, the crowds at their most frenetic and the general aura of raucous celebration—after all, Paczki Day coincides with Mardis Gras—gives a special flavor (no pun) to Polonia in the Motor City.
We began at New Martha Washington Bakery before six AM, as Don (who works one day a year at the bakery; it’s owned by his in-laws) began tossing fist-sized balls of dough into the deep fryer. Amid media remote crews, including Fox 2’s Al Allen and Jason Carr and WDIV-4’s sensationally attractive Rachel Bianca, (who clearly doesn’t have many paczki in her diet) we followed the paczki from deep fat to deep chill, as eager customers carried cartons to waiting friends, workmates and family.
Afterward, we caught a segment of Dick Purtan’s Paczki Day show, live in his Ferndale studio, where Purtan’s People cracked us up with off-the-cuff comments about the ‘Our Story Of’ series. In the background, Misty Blue (the polka band that regaled us at the Countdown to Paczki Day celebration on Saturday in Hamtramck) played live in the studio, making for a tight squeeze, but one which everyone enjoyed.
After that, it was a quick run back to the New Dodge Lounge in Hamtramck, where we tried to track down the Polish Muslims—the world’s best (read: only) polka rock band, but some miscue put us in the hard partying bar sans the Muslims. Better luck next time—though the New Dodge was seriously noisy anyway.
To cap the day, we filmed a paczki eating contest at the Hamtramck V.F.W. Hall. Eight contestants—not all Polish—and brother, it wasn’t pretty. If we shared that the winner downed sixteen of the five-hundred calorie donuts in fifteen minutes, you’d think we were nuts. So we won’t say it. You’ll have to wait for the premiere of ‘Our Polish Story’ June 16th and see it for yourself.