In school, we're taught about our region, our state, our country and our world. We learn about places. Cultures. People. Then, we grow older and realize that it matters to us to know about our own people. Our ancestors. Where we came from. And for longer than we can remember, we've been celebrating our heritage and our history, right here in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Hardly a weekend goes by in June without the dancing, food, and familiar aromas of the cultures our region was founded on filling the streets of our communities. And this month, it all begins with Frankenmuth's Bavarian Festival, June 12-15th.
While Frankenmuth started out as a Christian Mission Post, it has evolved into a bustling German-themed community with full of larger-than-life annual festivals, world-famous chicken dinners, and even the World's Largest CHRISTmas Store.
The annual Bavarian Festival is held at -you guessed it -Heritage Park. Celebrating the German heritage, Polka music will kick off the opening. Rides, chicken dinners, concerts, a parade, beer (of course) and even a Corn Hole Tournament will provide entertainment for the entire family.
After you've brushed up on your Bavarian traditions, it's time to over-indulge in baklava, gyros, and a whole lot of Greek dancing. And it all happens at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church during the annual GreekFest (this year, June 13-15).
The first-ever Greek Festival was held in 1979 under the direction of Dr. Louis Economou. Since then, the celebration has evolved into a three-day extravaganza with traditional Greek dancing performances and group lessons, Greek music, tours of the church, authentic Greek food, and of course, a hospitality tent.
Ask any local, and they'll tell you that food is what completes GreekFest. Local supporter Anne Watkins says the Baklava is the "best ever" and regular festival attendee Sandy VanTol advises visitors to "bring your appetite, get a menu, try multiple items and mark your favorites for next year."
Another regular attendee of the festival, Sean Bryce, says the calamari is his favorite but suggests to "Always get a gyro and try the Spanikopita." Sean's other advice? Ask for a stamp on your wrist or hand when entering the festival in case you have to leave. That way, you can get back in to enjoy more later that same day.
Mexian American Fiesta
The Mexican American Fiesta is June 20th - 21st in Chesaning at Showboat Park. Rod Cantu, Chairman, says the fiesta is "all about celebrating the Mexican heritage of people living in our area." But this festival is not just for locals. It's for anyone who wants to enjoy a true authentic Mexican celebration, full of traditional dishes, music, and more.
The festival kicks off on Friday, June 20th with a Battle of the Bands, while Saturday brings softball, horseshoe and volleyball tournaments, a homemade wine contest and Mexican Bingo. So what is Mexican Bingo, exactly? Cantau describes it as, "Just like regular bingo, but with pictures instead of numbers, and the names are called out in Spanish."
Camping accommodations for the festival are available right on site at Showboat Park, and can be reserved by calling Chesaning Parks and Recreation at 989-845-3800 or 989-845-7699.
Bay City celebrates their Polish ancestors with the annual St. Stan's Polish Festival, June 25th through June 29th. During the early 1870's, Louis Danielewski and other Polish families escaped Prussian domination and settled mostly in the south end of Bay City, founding St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in 1874.
The influence of the Polish quickly grew and by the early 1900's, they made up almost 25% of the population. Surrounding areas became home to the Polish as well and as a result, several more churches were erected due to the distance to travel to St. Stanislaus.
Today, Bay City nods to its Polish heritage during a 4-day festival full of Polka music, homemade Polish food, casino games, concerts, bingo, carnival rides and dancing! Wednesday, June 25th, kicks off with The Matt Ryan Band while Thursday features a Road Race Day with an annual 5K run/walk for all ages.
No matter what your heritage, we hope you'll come celebrate cultures of all kinds here with us in the Great Lakes Bay Region in June. The hardest part? Saving room for all of that delicious, authentic food!