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Longtime festival volunteer honored with Ferris wheel

Becky Vargo • Aug 2, 2019 at 1:00 PM

“He’s still in charge – I’m just the go-fer,” joked Scott Klaassen as a group of Coast Guard Festival and carnival officials rallied around the longtime chairman of the festival’s carnival committee, Dan Guzek, on Wednesday.

Guzek, 74, who has been ill and unable to walk for more than a year, finally felt well enough to get back on the midway, so officials took advantage of the opportunity to present him with a Ferris wheel sculpture to honor him for his years of service.

Bob Skerbeck, one of the owners of the Skerbeck Family Carnival, said their partnership with the Coast Guard Festival has been really good, in large part because of Guzek’s work.

“From my end, it’s been a great relationship,” Skerbeck said.

Festival Director Mike Smith noted that Guzek has worked with the festival for more than 35 years, the last 20 of which he worked with the carnival, mostly as chairman.

Smith thanked Guzek for his service as he presented the moving sculpture to the man in the wheelchair. Guzek smiled in surprise as Smith approached with the festively decorated Ferris wheel. He thought he was just hanging out with friends for the afternoon and posing for a picture.

Guzek said it was the late Craig Flahive who got him interested in volunteering with the annual festival that honors the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I wanted to do something for the community I love,” Guzek said.

So, in 1974, he started “helping out.” In 1980, Guzek became a committee member, helping bring a beer tent to the festival. After that, he organized the first Vegas nights. In 1984, he started working with the carnival.

“This is the fifth carnival company I’ve worked with since then,” he said.

In February 2018, Guzek went to get off his couch and slid to the floor. He hasn’t walked since.

Seven hospitals later, he is now working through the University of Michigan Hospitals. Guzek said he receives a five-hour infusion of a stem cell solution every two weeks. A change in the solution – designed to kill bacteria that is killing his nerve endings in his hands and feet – has finally started making a difference, he said.

“I feel just great,” Guzek said Wednesday.

If everything works out, Guzek said he hopes to be back on the midway for next year’s festival.

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