Hamtramck's canoe races the wildest, wettest yet

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The Polish Sea League team gets ready - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
The Polish Sea League team gets ready

It was a wild, wet time early this afternoon in Hamtramck, with the annual Labor Day canoe races, in which several taverns field teams to push canoe-like carts up and down the main street of town while revelers throw water balloons at them.

click to enlarge The Whiskey-In-The-Jar's cart looks smart. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
The Whiskey-In-The-Jar's cart looks smart.

The Polish Sea League team's cart looked sturdy, and the crew arrived early to practice, making them a pre-race favorite. The Whiskey-In-The-Jar cart was black and angular, looking lean and mean. The Fowling Warehouse's cart was a cage lined with netting, much more sophisticated than their entry last year, which looked like it was built by workmen fighting off a hangover with a blunt.

click to enlarge City Clerk August Gitschlag primes the crowd - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
City Clerk August Gitschlag primes the crowd

Master of ceremonies, Hamtramck City Clerk August Gitschlag, in a pirate costume, was joined by a guy who looked like a bearded sailor driving a skateboard affixed with a sail and a captain's wheel. They got the crowd primed, told them the rules, and the carts were off, up and down the street, bombarded by water balloons and blasted by water cannons. 

click to enlarge Buckets of water are allowed too. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Buckets of water are allowed too.

click to enlarge Here's another canoe getting doused. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Here's another canoe getting doused.

click to enlarge A steady stream of water kept these contestants on their toes. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
A steady stream of water kept these contestants on their toes.


click to enlarge Splish-splash. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Splish-splash.
click to enlarge Pushing on, regardless of what the crowd throws at them. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Pushing on, regardless of what the crowd throws at them.

Steering problems plagued the Whiskey's team, and in the end, fighting against Suzy's Bar, it had so many problems turning that it even scooped up one of the goal lines and dragged it back, but the Whiskey still beat Suzy's, friction resistance notwithstanding.

click to enlarge Soldering on through the super soakers. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Soldering on through the super soakers.

click to enlarge The Fowling Warehouse's creative canoe cart. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
The Fowling Warehouse's creative canoe cart.

click to enlarge Another direct hit. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Another direct hit.

click to enlarge Keeping their heads down, the pushers try to steer straight. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Keeping their heads down, the pushers try to steer straight.

click to enlarge Absolute bedlam. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Absolute bedlam.

click to enlarge This rider, after having pushed down the street, relaxes for a moment on the return trip, only to have his face become awash with water, the target of some perfect pitcher. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
This rider, after having pushed down the street, relaxes for a moment on the return trip, only to have his face become awash with water, the target of some perfect pitcher.

It was a little rowdier than usual this year, with spectators on both sides of Joseph Campau throwing water balloons across the street at one another, but most saved their watery wrath for the contestants, as these photos attest.

click to enlarge Polish Sea League, didn't even make the finals. Too bad. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
Polish Sea League, didn't even make the finals. Too bad.

click to enlarge The front of the Whiskey's canoe is blocked by a goal marker, providing just enough drag to almost give Suzy's the win. - Photos by Michael Jackman
Photos by Michael Jackman
The front of the Whiskey's canoe is blocked by a goal marker, providing just enough drag to almost give Suzy's the win.

Also, when the race was over, the emcee asked the spectators to please pick up all the balloon fragments. Within two minutes, the street was wet, but clear of any of the colorful debris. Though the "Captain's Wheel" trophy will go to the Whiskey, the crowd wins the People's Choice award for good teamwork.

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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