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Paczki Day is more than doughnuts … it’s Detroit’s Mardi Gras

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Come Wednesday, March 5, the streets of Hamtramck will be covered in the disposable cups from the day before’s epic celebration at local bars.

Whisky In The Jar

Whisky In The Jar

This happens every year following Fat Tuesday, better known in Detroit as Paczki Day. While buying paczkis gets more attention, this annual tradition gets throngs of people to flood the local bars each year.

The first bar in Hamtramck opens at 7:00 am. From that point it is game on. From then until 2:00 am, the city becomes a giant party. The bars become so packed that Paczki Day is often referred to as Detroit’s Mardi Gras.  While it lacks the colorful costumes and floats that roll down the streets of the Big Easy, it has Detroiters just as excited.

Tony Arucho, a bartender at both Whiskey In The Jar and 7 Brothers, has said that it has taken 20 years to learn how to do Paczki Day just right.  It is not uncommon to start at 8:30 am in one bar, work a shift, go home get four hours of sleep, and then go and work another full shift at a different bar.

Arucho compared the day to St. Patrick’s Day… except that every bar in town is the Old Shillelagh.

Hamtramck locals are by no means the only residents to take part in the day-long revelry. People from all around the Detroit area show up and pour into the bars for the day.  Some are preparing to give up something for Lent the next day. Others are just looking for a good time.

Old timers like to remember way back when. Kids just turning 21 want to take part in their first drinking fest. It’s a fun day for everyone to show up in Hamtramck.

This day may be a given for a bacchanal to erupt, but that does not mean that the bars in the area don’t put forth any effort?

Smalls compressedQuite the contrary.

Bars make sure to give customers plenty of reasons to stop by and stay awhile. The most common way is to book plenty of entertainment throughout the day.

Local bands provide a good way to give patrons more than just the joy of drinking.  Some bars like Whiskey In The Jar have booked as many as 10 bands to play just to keep drinkers from getting bored. The Polish Muslims will provide their tongue-in-cheek musical sensibilities to the day.  The bar also has a sign counting down the days to Paczki Day, just to entice regulars.

Small’s, another Paczki Day frequenting bar, will drop cover charges for the whole day, offer T-shirts and serve “Paczki  Bombs.”  Just so no one forgets the origin of the day, Polish food will be readily available throughout the day.

With so much attention pouring in from all over Detroit, it might be expected the locals will get lost in the shuffle. Not so. Hamtramck’s residents are more than happy to let the visitors in … not just for the sense of camaraderie that discount drinks and an influx in the economy bring.  Regulars always get the usual love from their favorite bar’s employees, even if it is cut short amid the chaos.

Here is a complete list of Hamtramck bars.

Paczki Day is a long-standing tradition in the Motor City. We should all thank the Polish for bringing us Paczki Day … and not just for the pastries.

— Photos by Damon Trestain

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