GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For the first time since it started in 1973, Pulaski Days in Grand Rapids will not take place this year.

The festival, which was supposed to be held Oct. 2 through Oct. 4, has been canceled due to concerns about spreading coronavirus.

“It’s so misfortunate. We have really agonized over this decision and tried so hard and find a way,” Michelle Kershner, the chairwoman for Pulaski Days, said. “Last year we drew in over 300,000 people. How do you bring in 300,000 people and keep everyone safe?”

The festival celebrates the large Polish population in West Michigan. Usually, the 14 Polish halls around Grand Rapids are bursting at the seams with people during the first weekend of October. This year, they will be silent.

“This is their (the halls’) operating cost (fundraiser). They don’t want to just rely on Pulaski weekend and they have been very creative and run a tight ship, but now it’s all been stopped,” Kershner said.

The future for some of the clubs is now a big question mark.

“At risk is clubs closing and the possibility of clubs shutting their doors,” Kershner said, “because they have a huge challenge of paying taxes … taking care of everything they need to keep the club running while the doors are locked tight.”

Now they are turning to the generous West Michigan community.

“At this point our clubs have been shut down. It’s really a tumultuous time for our clubs. We’re really pleading to the public to help us out,” Kershner said.

The Pulaski Days Committee is asking people to buy pins and Polish shields at local businesses like Sobie Meats, 3450 Remembrance Road NW, and Lewandoski Meats, 1107 Walker Ave. NW.

The committee also is asking for charitable contributions to an emergency fund called Save The Halls. All of the money collected will be split equally among all 14 halls. Contribution can be made in person at the Grand Rapids branch of Credit Union ONE, 1609 Walker Ave. NW, and online by going to the Pulaski Days Committee website, where you’ll find a PayPal button for the Save The Halls campaign.

While the party may be canceled, but what the virus can never take away is the Polish pride of so many.

“There is no crushing the Polish pride,” Kershner said. “We are going to move on and 2021 we’ll be even stronger and it will be better and our clubs are going to survive this because I know this community will rally around Pulaski Days.”