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Dance Time
by Jennifer Pijanowski
© 2017 Polish American Journal

The Magic of Roncesvalles

The holiday season is upon us as our focus turns to family time, gatherings with friends, and holiday preparations to create lifelong memories. For many of us, polka music adds to that festive celebration during this cherished time of year. Fall has provided ample opportunity to savor wonderful music at a variety of festivals and venues. Polka Sundays return to local corner bars in Buffalo as Special Delivery can be enjoyed monthly at Clinton Bar & Grill, and Phocus at Captain Smith’s Anchor Inn.

A POLONIAN PARADISE. For me, the kickoff to the fall polka season means a trip to Toronto, Canada. The quaint neighborhood of Roncesvalles is transformed from a hip neighborhood serviced by busy streetcars, back to its roots of a Polish-Canadian paradise for the third weekend of September. Colorful flowers and folk decorations define the festival route while entertainment abounds. The entire Polish community of Toronto comes together to illustrate the culture of Poland far beyond the stereotypical pierogi and kielbasa. Music — from traditional bands, polka music, polo disco, and unconventional folk — offers a variety in the mile long festival.

A young group of musicians by the name of Polky Village have reinvented traditional Polish music as well as some polkas to appeal to music lovers. The group consists of five fantastic musicians, all with wonderful vocal talents. There are three females in the group taking lead vocals, playing fiddle, and keeping the beat on a drum modishly covered in traditional Polish floral fabric. The gentlemen complete this group while mastering the accordion, mandolin and dulcimer. Polky Village illustrates a revival in the important roots of Polish music, dance ,and folk lore.

Roncesvalles also offers a tremendous amount of talented dance groups who perform during the weekend. It is difficult to contain the excitement as the groups dance, sing, and bring traditions to life on the streets of Toronto. The amount of talent and young involvement in the Polish community of Toronto and the surrounding Canadian towns is overwhelming. The continuation of the language, history, and reverence for the culture is impressive. You cannot celebrate the culture of Poland without turning to the culinary delicacies that we all love. Whether you visit a street vendor, restaurant, deli, or one of the many organizations selling food during the event, you are sure to leave craving even more of this scrumptious food. Many of the specialties are items that we rarely find on a menu in the Western New York area. White barszcz, smalec, pork hamburgers, and krokiety are just some of the menu items that I look forward to indulging in each year.

Of course, North America’s largest Polish Festival would not be complete without wonderful polka music. Dancers take to the street as melodies resonate through the air at the Polka Mania stage. Eddie Guca & the Polish Canadians, John Gora & Gorale, Phocus, and Concertina All Stars took turns throughout the weekend. Polka lovers and passersby can’t help but dance along as the contagious beat takes over at this cultural event. I always look forward to seeing many of our Canadian friends whose love of polka music is infectious. The beer tent attached to the polka stage provides a premium spot to kick back, relax, and watch the dancers while listening to fabulous music. This year’s festival had beautiful weather, which made it very steamy for performers on stage but each put on a great show for everyone in attendance.

DOZYNKI FESTIVAL. Corpus Christi parish in the heart of Polonia did its part to celebrate harvest at its annual Dozynki festival. The two-day event got an early kick off as Polish Happy Hour hosted their monthly event at Corpus Christi’s athletic center on Friday. All money collected at the happy hour event went directly to the 110-year-old parish church. Hundreds of parishioners and supporters showed their love and commitment as they visited the event over the course of the weekend. Special Delivery provided their upbeat music to the crowd both Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Music billowed throughout the center enticing attendants to go upstairs and dance a few on the beautiful original hardwood floors of this treasured building. Folks even got a chance to dance a few non-polka songs as the band is happy to take requests and showcase their talents.

Sunday afternoon guests were also treated to some impromptu entertainment downstairs in the bar room. Ludowa Nuta Choir, who had joined Corpus Christi to celebrate Mass, brought their voices, instruments, and pizzazz to Dozynki singing beloved folk tunes and getting the audience involved. When this group of talented individuals from Hamilton, Ontario shows up at any event, you can be sure that it is going to be a memorable day.

DANCE BENEFITS SENIORS. The fifth annual Scholarship Dance held in memory of Jackie Schmid took place at Potts Banquet Hall. Money raised at this event goes to scholarships which are given to six high school seniors of Polish descent in the Cheektowaga, N.Y. area. Jackie was a staple of the Polish community and this event allows many of us to remember the impact she had on so many lives and her dedication to polka music. Over 200 friends gathered enjoying the music of Phocus and dancing, and we all knew Jackie was watching over each of us smiling. Basket raffles and 50/50 splits were also showcased to raise funds during the evening. It was a very successful event thanks to the hard work of the committee. If you know a high school senior, please let them know about this scholarship. You can visit www.facebook.com/jackieschmidscholarship or call (716) 668-2154 for information on eligibility and application dates.

JEPI KAJ-JEJ! Polka Meets Country returns to Western New York once again on Nov. 18, 2017. The event will take place at the Cove Seafood and Banquets, 4701 Transit Rd., Depew, N.Y. The third annual event will feature Polka Country Musicians along with local legend Marshall Dillion Band. Tickets are just $10 in advance and $15 at the door on the day of the event. Doors will open at 5:00 p.m. and music will begin at 7:00 with the bands alternating throughout the evening. If you want to try out your moves with line dancing, lessons will be held at 6:00 p.m. Polish beer, spirits, food will be available for purchase. You can contact Val at (716) 777-2455 or email him DyngusNY@aol.com. Any event Val hosts is a sure-fire winner so I have no doubt that the evening will be a spectacular time. This is a new venue so come show your support and prove that polka music is alive and well.

APPLES, PEACHES … Thanksgiving Eve dances are being held in both polka loving cities of Buffalo and Chicago. Tri City Drive will be hosting a Thanksgiving Eve Polka Hop at Polonia Banquets in Chicago while Polish Villa II will be home to Buffalo’s pre-holiday event featuring Buffalo Concertina All Stars. Go out and enjoy a night with polka friends before preparing a decadent dinner for your family.

PILLAR REUNION. If you are in the Connecticut area, don’t miss the 19th annual Dick and JoAnne Pillar’s Christmas Party Holiday Reunion featuring Eddie Forman Orchestra. This event takes place at Aqua Turf Ballroom in Plantsville, Conn. on Tues. Nov. 28, 2017. Tickets are $46 and include an all-you-can-eat family style buffet and an afternoon of music. The celebration takes place from 10:45 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased by visiting www.dickpillar.com. This event that will also feature Christmas caroling, holiday music, a parade, and  Pillar surprises. Join Dick and JoAnne as they celebrate their 60th year of entertainment.


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