Going Polish at Duneswood


By Jacob Wheeler
Sun editor

Cedar’s Polka Fest isn’t the only Polish attraction in these woods. The Duneswood Resort along M-109, and right on the popular new leg of the Sleeping Hear Heritage Trail, is a hit with Poles from Detroit and Chicago, and even Warsaw and Krakow.

Owner Debbie Rettke began displaying a Polish flag along M-109 last summer because she had employees from the central European nation. Lo and behold, people began pulling off the road to ask her (she recalled in a pronounced Polish accent), “What do you have my flag here for?”

“Because I love your country. Come stay here,” answered Rettke, who took over Duneswood in August 2011 and later discovered that she was, herself, of Polish ancestry. Rettke traveled to Poland for three months during the winter of 2012-13 and fell in love with the country’s northern part, which she said reminded her of Northern Michigan, with its rolling forests, inland lakes and climate (they grow cherries there too).

Duneswood flies the Polish coat of arms from one driveway entrance and a gay-friendly rainbow flag from the other. The motel was mostly a lesbian retreat during its early years, but now welcomes everyone—gay, straight, Polish, Lithuanian, German, whatever.

The Polish guests at Duneswood bring authentic pierogies from Detroit’s Hamtramck or Chicago’s west-side Polish neighborhoods, or kielbasas which they roast over an open fire (along with s’mores), and they sit around the campfire and speak Polish with their children. To stock up on supplies they sometimes visit Pleva’s in nearby Cedar.

Since the guests at Duneswood share common kitchens, Rettke has learned to make special dishes such as compote—slightly over-ripe fruit mixed with water and honey for a delicious beverage. They call the communal kitchen mała Polska, or “Little Poland” The room has decorations from Poland, a map of the country, a recording in Polish of “Singing in the Rain”, and the popular board game “Kolejka”, which educates about—and mocks—the need to constantly wait in line for goods during the Communist days.

“You win the game if you get enough food for your family,” Rettke explained. “One rule says that if you’re a pregnant woman, you stand in the front of line. But if you say something bad about the Communist party, you disappear!”

This summer, Rettke expects to receive at least five Polish families who return to Duneswood on a regular basis, often with their friends. Last year, she hosted a Pole in his 90s, who had been to every single Polka Fest across America.

So if you pine for the Polka beat, or to hear the classical sounds of Chopin, book a room at Duneswood.