Polka Fest lifts spirits in Jewett City

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Aug. 15, 2011
Brendan and Elisea, both 4, try out some pint-sized polka steps at Jewett City's Polka Fest.
Brendan and Elisea, both 4, try out some pint-sized polka steps at Jewett City's Polka Fest.

Polka fans prevailed against possible cancellation on Aug. 12, as Veterans’ Park on Taylor Hill Road came alive to the sound of accordion, clarinet and trumpet.

Dennis Polisky and The Maestro’s Men entertained a sizeable crowd of polka fans of all ages, many of whom took full advantage of the dance floor set up by the gazebo. Others just tapped their feet along to the beat as they enjoyed the summer evening concert from their lawn chairs.

“It was looking like it wasn’t going to happen, but [the seniors] wanted it to continue,” said Senior Center Director Tina Falck. Griswold Senior Center sponsored Polka Fest this year, after funding for the town’s outdoor summer concert series failed to materialize. The seniors rallied to organize the event for late July, only to be forced to postpone due to excessive heat.

But Friday evening’s balmy temperatures lured polka fans from as far away as Massachusetts. The Jewett City Fire Department sold hot dogs and burgers, while members of the senior center offered homemade baked goods and Polish “soul food” – kielbasa and sauerkraut with caraway seeds.

David Mortlock came from Coventry to cut a rug with Stephanie Dulka of East Hartford. “It’s a short ride to go to dance,” he said. “And it’s a beautiful area here.” He called the Maestro’s Men “the best.”

That wasn’t just hyperbole. Polisky, of Colchester, who plays clarinet and saxophone in the band, is in the Polka Hall of Fame, and the ensemble has been named favorite instrumental polka band by the International Polka Association for seven years running.

The youngest fans probably weren’t impressed by the band’s laurels – they just had fun dancing, whether they knew any polka steps or not. Older dancers led the kids in “The Chicken Dance,” and later performed their own graceful spins and turns, as the youngsters hopped and spun at the fringes.

“It’s community-friendly. That’s what I really like about this event,” said Falck. “It’s for the seniors and their families.”

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