Michael Kuszczak performing seated high-kick, 1993. Photo: Zenon Kuszczak
Ukrainian Sunflower Festival
This is among the most popular and
largest ethnic summer festivals in Michigan, attracting 25,000
people annually. The festival features traditional Ukrainian food,
ethnic dancing and costumes, and exhibitions and demonstrations of
Ukrainian folk crafts, especially embroidery and ceramics. The
parishes of two Detroit area Ukrainian Catholic churches, the
Immaculate Conception in Hamtramck and St. Josaphat in Warren,
began the festival during the 1980s to bring Ukrainian communities
together, and to share the beauty and importance of the Ukrainian
heritage, culture and traditions with other Americans. The
sunflower is a traditional flower in Ukraine, and Ukranian
immigrants following World War II brought its seeds with them to
America. Each year students from the Immaculate Conception Grade
School plant sunflower seeds around the perimeter of the festival
grounds at St. Josephat so that the flowers are blooming during the
Live professional craft demonstrations show how the
gerdon (beaded necklace) of floral and geometric design,
often worn with folk costumes, is made. Also popular are the
coloring and decorating of Easter eggs, called
pysanky symbolize rebirth or a new life. Other crafts
demonstrated are wood cutwork and inlaid wood carvings.
Especially popular is the festival's ethnic fare.
Daily food preparation by 50 parishioners begins weeks before the
Varenyky, a dough dumpling filled with potato,
cheese, sauerkraut, or fruit filling, is among the sampling. For
example, 1,000 pounds of potatoes are used just for the popular
varenyky filling. Many desserts are made from old family
recipes. A popular dessert is
torte, which can be walnut,
mocha, cream cheese and fruit. Ukraine has sometimes been called
the bread basket of Europe, and the festival showcases many popular
Ukranian breads, including
korovaj, also known as the
wedding bread. This unique bread is made of wheat and is decorated
with specific symbolic figurines.
Among the festival's diverse entertainment under the
"big tent" are ethnic dancers and constant music. Two ongoing
dueling bands play back to back, one performs ethnic and the other
contemporary or popular music. The project is documented with a
notebook reviewing the past 13 years of the festival, 16 color
photographs, supplemental material, and a CD and video.
Originally submitted by: Carl Levin, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.