Jewett City Polka Fest crosses age, ethnic barriers
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Aug. 26, 2013
Polka music and dancing crosses boundaries of age, ethnicity and physical ability, as demonstrated at Jewett City’s annual Polka Fest at Veterans’ Memorial Park on Aug. 23. A spectacular sunset formed a dramatic backdrop to the park’s gazebo, as dancers swirled across the sidewalk to the lively beat.
One couple circling the gazebo identified themselves jokingly as Betty and Jack "Donahue-ski." Their lack of a Polish surname didn’t show in the confidence of their polka dance moves, however.
Likewise, Gary Smith didn’t let the fact that he was wheelchair-bound limit his enjoyment of the music. His cousin, Cathy Cote, held his hands and swayed with him in time to the music, as Cora Cote, Smith’s mother, looked on. “He loves the polka,” said Cora.
Donna Wisniewski, of Griswold, a native of Poland, took turns swinging her tow-headed granddaughters, Chloe, 5, and Helena, 3, in her arms. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, 87-year-old Al Jocis, of Stafford Springs, vigorously cut a rug with fellow polka fan Stephanie Dulka, of East Hartford.
“I was dancing the polka when I was 12 years old,” said Jocis. “I was pretty good. That’s my first love.” Twice widowed, he said a mutual love of the polka led him to his second wife, Carol. “She was an excellent dancer, a great woman,” he said. Despite his history of health problems, including three stents in his heart, he hasn’t stopped dancing.
“He takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” joked Jocis’ friend, Frank Carlson, of Voluntown.
Dennis Polisky and the Maestro’s Men returned to Polka Fest to provide the music once again, in an ensemble that included the traditional clarinet, saxophone and accordion, along with keyboard and percussion. The group mixed musical styles a little here and there for variety, throwing in a few pop classic standards like “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “In the Mood” to change things up for the crowd. The group also played a number of dedications for birthdays and anniversaries.
Polish sausage and sauerkraut topped the list of menu offerings from the A.A. Young Hose and Ladder Company, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Griswold Senior Center.