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Dance Time
by Jennifer Pijanowski
© 2017 Polish American Journal

Tireless Promoter Val Bakowski Pulls Off Another Success

After spending over nine months traveling coast to coast, Polka Country Musicians played their final gig of 2017 in Buffalo. Fans packed The Cove in Depew, N.Y. for a night filled with the fine sounds of Polka Country as well as the reunion of local country band Marshall Dillon.

Val Bakowski hosted the 3rd annual Polka vs. Country and through his commitment and relentless advertising, music fans were out in full force to enjoy this genre mashup. After last year’s venue “Nashville’s” closed, Val did not give up on finding a perfect fit for this large event as he searched out another Western New York country hot spot. The space provided ample seating area to take a break from dancing on the vast dance floor. The bartenders served up Polish beers, liquors, and quite a few shots of krupnik over the course of the evening. The wait staff could be seen carrying delicious Polish platters to hungry music lovers amid the packed venue. A bird’s eye view was also available from an additional large seating area and bar which overlooked the entire downstairs. The mezzanine provided a dynamic view of the band as well as the best in crowd watching.

Polka Country’s high energy, country-infused polkas drove polka lovers onto the dance floor, while line dancers wasted no time in speeding up their line dances to join in. Spellbound by the talent of PCM, Marshall Dillon fans were quickly converted into polka lovers. The Dombrowski brothers definitely know how to exhilarate a crowd as Wally and Richie first took the stage as Polka Country over 40 years ago. As time passes, the band explores new ways to draw additional fans by keeping their repertoire fresh and new. I, along with many of their fans, am anxiously awaiting their upcoming CD which was recorded live at the USPA Convention in May. Now that the band members have some time off, they can turn their focus to this recording so we can all enjoy it when it debuts later this year.

This delightful evening treated fans to a jam session of Polka Country and Marshall Dillon band playing one of my favorites “Callin’ Baton Rouge.” A big thank you goes out to Val Bakowski for his commitment to polka music and not giving up regardless of unexpected roadblocks. Next up on Val’s agenda will be his 29th anniversary Dyngus Day weekend event on April 1st and 2nd.

FREE IS IS GOOD, BUT ... Polka Buzz is still going strong and episode tapings continue to happen each month. Recently, New Direction, Buffalo Concertina All Stars, and Phocus taped shows to entertain folks on the Sunday broadcast which shows at 11:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on WBBZ. Hundreds of music lovers file into Potts early for these television productions to get their chance to be seen by friends and family watching the show.

While this broadcast continues to highlight our local Buffalo polka bands, its free admission is a driving force in seeing this talent instead of polka lovers paying admission to a dance. Polka musicians commit to many hours practicing, setting up, and playing for little or no money so it is important to also support these bands at paid events. Please support local dances or buy a CD which helps defer many of the costs which these bands incur while striving to continue the tradition of polka music.

Make certain to catch one of the broadcasts as you will most likely know some enthusiasts in the crowd. If you do not live in the Buffalo area, you can watch the Polka Buzz’s weekly episodes online via YouTube.

KNEWZ CHRISTMAS CD. An easy way to get into the Christmas spirit this year was listening to Holidayz the new Christmas-flavored recording by The Knewz.

This new release played on repeat for several weeks after picking up my copy at their CD release party. Polka lovers convened at Potts Banquet Hall to grab the Knewz’s ninth recording, dance, and celebrate with the band.

The evening consisted of cuts from their new holiday songs, favorite Knewz hits, and the surprise of some treasured Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatone’s classics. Jimmy Weber belted out some beloved Eddie B songs which really packed the dance floor. The crowd included quite a few out of town guests who came to support these talented musicians. Kenny, Jeff, and Nik Yash, the Zelasko family, and the Rosinskis, were a few of those who made the trip for this special performance.

It takes much skill to borrow another artist’s music and make it completely your own, and the Knewz managed to successfully accomplish just that on Holidayz. On Brad Paisley’s “Born on Christmas Day” the Knewz transforms those beautiful lyrics into a song that sounds as if it was written just for them.

Congratulations to the Knewz on the impressive arrangements showcased in these 14 tracks. The a cappella version of “That’s Christmas to Me” showcases their unbelievable vocal talents. There are some added bonuses with guest vocals by former bandmate Tommy Wanderlich as well as Cindy Zelasko adding her skillful trombone playing to the track “Sleigh Ride.” It was a warm-hearted evening spent watching these incredible musicians share their gift with their fans.

REST IN PEACE. It is with deep sadness that we said goodbye to polka lover and promoter Ron Polak after a brief illness. Many remember Ronnie as one of the ring leaders of the “Polka Pals,” but he was also known for hosting the annual Kolędy event at Knights of St. John in Cheektowaga.

This group of polka fans travelled extensively to polka events, many times in costume and always ready to party. The pictures, stories, and memories shared at his wake portrayed a life well enjoyed and lived. Ron was an integral part of his parish of St. Stanislaus Church where he was an active member his entire life. He will be sorely missed by the many friends he made though polka music and his spiritual family at St. Stan’s. I am sure he is up in heaven enjoying that incredible band of musicians.

IPA EVENTS. This cold January weather can be made a little warmer by getting out and celebrating National Polka Month. The weather won’t hinder International Polka Association celebrating the preservation of polka music. Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push kick off a fun filled weekend at the IPA Warm Up event on January 12, 2018. Music from 6:00-10:00 p.m. at Polonia Banquets 4604 S. Archer Ave. in Chicago as Lenny returns to his home town for this fundraising event. Admission is $15.00 and additional information on hotels can be found by visiting

The fun continues on Sunday January 14th with IPA’s Festival of Bands where eight top performing bands will share the stage. The lineup includes Tony Blazonczyk’s New Phaze, Lenny Zielinski & The D Street Band, The Polka Generations, Gennie O & The Windy City Brass, Tri-City Drive, Freeze Dried, The Music Company, and IPA Tribute Band. Doors for this star-studded event will open at 11:00 a.m. with non-stop music beginning at 11:30 a.m. Admission is just $15.00 and Mary’s Polish kitchen will be open throughout the day. This is sure to be a day filled with surprises, special performances, and the very best in polka music.

And while the IPA’s award-winning local bands may be noticeably absent from the event, the 3rd Annual IPA Festival of Buffalo Polka will be held Saturday, January 27th, 2018 at the Potts Banquet Hall, Clinton & Rossler Plaza, in Cheektowaga, N.Y. Music will be provided by regional stalwarts the Concertina All Stars, The Touch, New Direction, Phocus, Rare Vintage, and Special Delivery.

In addition, there will also be special guest appearances (if available) by several IPA Hall of Famers

The IPA will also honor Ron Dombrowski, local DJ, host of the daily Drive Time Polka Show and the weekly TV show Polka Buzz. Ronnie D will be celebrating his 40th year of broadcasting in the WNY.

In addition, WBBZ-TV will be taping each band for a future Polka Buzz show.

The International Polka Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has set a goal of gaining 1000 new members. You can help the IPA reach this goal by joining. Annual dues are only $15.00, which includes a subscription to the IPA newsletter (either print or on-line). This organization strives to promote, encourage, and advance every aspect of polka music. IPA recognizes all genres of polka music and exhibits this through their awards and recognitions each year. The success of organizations like IPA depends on the support of polka lovers like all of us.

DUJKA BROTHERS DANCE. There will be a Texas-sized party in Schulenburg, Texas to honor national polka month. Join Mark and John Dujka to celebrate receiving an IPA music award for their recording of “Church Picnic Polka.”

The Dujka Brothers will perform at the Schulenburgh Knights of Columbus at 405 South St. on January 27, 2018 from 7:00-11:00 p.m. Admission is $10.00/$5.00 for IPA members/kids 12 & under are free. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. with a silent auction, and there will be burgers and plenty of beer available for the evening’s festivities. This is an event that you will not want to miss if you are in the Schulenburg area (located midway between Houston, Austin and San Antonio).

The Dujka Brothers are celebrating 30 years in the polka field and were also inducted into the South Texas Polka Hall of Fame in 2017.

BEST WISHES. I would like to wish everyone a blessed and happy 2018. This year is already shaping up for a calendar filled with polka cruises, trips, weekends, and plentiful dances. I look forward to filling my agenda by spending this year enjoying happy, enlivening, polka music and making memories with my polka friends both old and new.

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