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Dance Time
by Jennifer Pijanowski
© 2017 Polish American Journal

The Most Wonderful of the Year

The most wonderful time of the year is here again as our calendars become packed with holiday parties, shopping, and enjoying family traditions. As I see 2018 approaching, I look forward to attending some new events and festivals while meeting even more polka friends. My fall season passed quickly with plentiful opportunities to enjoy lively polka music.

The Cleveland Polka Association celebrated its anniversary with the sounds of the Buffalo Touch. The crowd gathered at the Holy Spirit Party Center to dance and enjoy many of the tunes for which the Touch has become known in their 20-plus years as a band. Folks were treated to the reunion of Ken Machelski and guest accordion player Joe Grenda, who performed together decades ago in the Goral Boys. Joe meshed perfectly with the group, keeping folks dancing their way through this enjoyable Sunday afternoon affair.

I enjoyed catching up with longtime friends Paul and Carol Kibelbek, who I met when I attended my first Seven Springs Fall Polka Festival 20 years ago. I found it is indeed a small world as their close friends Paul and Phyllis Majcher were headed to Oglebay resort, in my home town of Wheeling, WV, the next morning to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Cleveland’s affinity for polka music is alive and well in the many volunteers who work tirelessly to keep CPA a vibrant organization.

CLASSIX REUNION. Polka lovers know that the phrase “Hrukus Hellraisers” is synonymous with party time and their annual Halloween Polka Weekend was exactly that. The anticipation of Jackie Libera & the Classix taking the stage laid the groundwork for fans to make their plans months in advance to attend this event.

Folks from Canada, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Ohio were present to witness the reunion of this talented group. Jackie’s amazing voice, backed by the strong musicianship of the band, provided heartwarming memories for long-time fans of the Classix.

Since this was the first time I was to hear the band live, I prepared by watching hours’ worth of videos and recordings before heading to Cohoes, N.Y. for the event. An impressive mix of music throughout the night made it hard to believe The Classix had been on a 20-plus year hiatus a band.

One of the highlights of the evening was Jackie’s daughter Jenna taking the stage with her dad to perform a few songs. The pride and love from parents Jackie and Linda was evident as their beautiful daughter shined on stage showcasing her stunning voice. With regard to talent, the apple did not fall far from the Libera family tree — hearing Jenna sing was a thrill.

On Sunday, fans got a chance to dance along to the enjoyable sounds of the Piatkowski Brothers featuring gifted drummer and vocalist Larry Trojak. Always a crowd favorite, fans got to hear many of their beloved Dynatones tunes. As an added bonus, the young group of polka artists Polka Method shared the stage with the Piatkowski Brothers and thrilled those in attendance. For those who made the trip, This Hellraisers Halloween celebration — and the hospitality of the Ukrainian American Citizens Club — was well worth it.

HUNDREDS PACKED the beautiful banquet hall of the Knights of Columbus in Cheektowaga for Polish Night featuring The Buffalo Touch and The Knewz. Two Buffalo bands shared the stage for an evening of fellowship and non-stop dancing. Mike Nowakowski, who took a month off after having surgery, returned to play a few songs with his bandmates. It was clear how much he has missed playing along with the Touch, and the crowd enjoyed seeing him back on stage. Ted Szymanski from Special Delivery has been superb helping the band out in Mike’s absence. The sound of the two accordions brought a lively addition to the band and the large hall.

While fan favorite, The Knewz, brought their loyal younger following, they also play the tunes that all ages truly enjoy. The vocals of Jimmy Weber are an added to bonus to this skillful group who continue to be recognized yearly as one of the nation’s most popular polka bands. It is apparent that these musicians are proud of their Western New York polka roots and they work tirelessly to continue honing their craft. Andy Bojczuk has earned much acclaim for his vocal gifts and he sings each song with a true passion for the music.

Polka fans will be eager to grab a copy of their new Christmas recording which will debut, Dec. 2 at a CD release party held at Potts Banquet Hall. Information on getting your copy of this must-have recording can be found on their website www.theknewz.com.

SPECIAL GUEST. Special Delivery borrowed the talents of Tom Picciano from the Knewz for polka Sunday at Clinton Bar & Grill. This corner tavern provides the perfect environment for polka music and dancing. Special Delivery packed the CBG to capacity on a cold rainy night with polka lovers young and old. Playing polkas, obereks, romantic waltzes, and fan requests kept the night fun and interesting. Tommy, a true professional, blended with Special Delivery like he’d been with the band since day one.

It’s unfortunate that bands have to “share” musicians like this, though. Western New York is bursting with musicians who no longer play steady with a band and it would be great to see some of them return for these kind of limited performances. Special Delivery plays one Sunday each month at Clinton Bar and Grill and it is an ideal way to keep warm as the weather (unfortunately) turns colder.

SOUNDS OF THE SEASON. As the holiday season approaches, your season will not be complete without a healthy dose of kolędy. Join Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push for a Christmas Party and Kolędy Night, Dec. 9, 2017. It will be held at Independence Fire Hall 2, Cemetery Rd., Great Meadows, N.J. from 6:30-11:30 pm. Visit Lenny’s website at www.chicagopush.com for additional details.

Buffalo Polka Boosters Christmas Party featuring John Gora & Gorale will celebrate the holiday polka season in Buffalo, Dec. 9, 2017 at Polish Falcons 445 Columbia Ave., Depew, N.Y. Tickets are $35.00/members or $45.00/non-members, admission includes cocktails, dinner, and dancing. Contact Chris for information at (716) 771-1076. Tickets are limited, so call right away to make your reservations.

New Direction will be playing your favorite polkas and spreading holiday cheer at the Broadway Market on Saturday December 16, 2017. The market is located at 999 Broadway in Buffalo and will be packed with vendors that will fill the air with delicious holiday fragrances to whet your appetite. Join Ron Urbanczyk and the guys from 12:00-3:00 for some lively music at this Buffalo landmark.

Afterwards, head over to Potts Banquet Hall at Clinton and Rossler Plaza in Cheektowaga for a Górale Kolędy and Christmas Party. This event will include music by Special Delivery and a performance by Ted Zdybal and his Górale group, Hyr. from Toronto, Canada. Contact Ted at (716) 668-9101 for more information on this unique Christmas celebration.

New Year’s Eve celebrations are definitely more jovial while enjoying polka music. There are several events to consider when deciding where to welcome in the New Year.

Buffalo Concertina All Stars, Honky Express and special guest Eddie Biegaj will be ringing in the New Year at Millennium Hotel in Buffalo. Rates start at $199 per couple and include a seven-hour open bar, a Polish dinner buffet, overnight accommodations, breakfast buffet and more. Contact (716) 983-4815 for more information.

Polka music haven Potts Banquet Hall invites you and your friends to join Phocus as they celebrate on New Year’s Eve. The evening includes prime rib, sea bass, or chicken cordon blue dinner, a six-hour open bar, hors d’oeuvres, hats, and noisemakers. Packages for this event are available starting at $49.95 per person. Please contact Danny at (716) 826-6575 for more information.

And finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a blessed holiday season. As I reflect on this important time of the year, I will be thankful for the polka friends and family who have become so much a part of me. I never anticipated that my life would be so full of energetic, positive, fun loving friends who would complete my world. Enjoy this time spent with those whom you love, as this is indeed a magical time of year. Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 


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