President's Day Dance of the Cleveland Polka Association (C.P.A.)
On Sunday, February 14th, the temperature was in the high teens/low twenties and it was, to our way of thinking, a perfect day to stay home by the fire eating toasted cheese sandwiches on multi-grain bread served with chunky tomato bisque soup but we love polka music so we donned our overcoat and headed over to Agostino's Event Center on Ridge Road in Brooklyn in order to attend the President's Day Dance of the Cleveland Polka Association (C.P.A.) although it was announced that it COULD be regarded as the Sweetheart's Dance too since it took place on Valentine's Day. It was estimated that 150 people were there and the place was lively, indeed. The band playing was Polish Polka Band named "Badinov" and it was led by veteran musician Mr. Randy Krajewski who introduced them as "Toledo fellows with a little infusion from New Jersey." We talked to Mr. Krajewski about this and he readily acknowledged that polka's initial roots were more Czech than Polish and he believed that polka just might be more popular in the United States than it is in Poland. We also got to meet Mr. Eddie Biegaj who has been playing with Mr. Krajewski since high school. Mr. Biegaj now lives in New Jersey but happened to be in this vicinity over the weekend when "Badinov" was in need of a drummer so he stepped in. He explained to us that each ethnic group has its own unique polka style and there are even different styles within the ethnic group. Polish polka, for instance, has three styles which are "Eastern", "Chicago", and "Honky." We sat for a minute with Mr. Dennis Tyburski who was really enjoying himself. In addition to being a "polka rowdy" he is actively involved with "Raisin'Canes", the Parma Senior Center award-winning vaudeville dancers, and the Knights of Columbus. When we asked him why he liked polka he said simply, "because it is wonderful." It was certainly wonderful when it was announced that a couple chose to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary there with us. The husband and wife got up and danced together as we formed a rotating circle around them as Mr. Krajewski sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" as "Badinov" played. For us, the only said thing about the Dance was there were very few young people there. One would think that because polka is such a lively dance the younger set would be drawn to it. We talked about this with Mr. Troy Gawlak, a young fellow himself, who agreed that this was unfortunate. He attributes it to a generation of polka fans choosing not to bring their young children to polka dances; thus an early-age appreciation was not nurtured. Nevertheless, Mr. Jim Wise, President of the Cleveland Polka Association, said that polka is "in my blood and I don't want it to die. The C.P.A. and the U.S.P.A. are both Polish-American polka organizations and work closely with each other. We said hello to Ms. Barb Haselow, President of the U.S.P.A., whose mother, Mr. Jeannie Wagner (a former President of the U.S.P.A.) knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong for years. Ms. Haselow invited us to come to the Memorial Day Polka Festival in Independence coming up in May, 2016 which is expected to have an attendance of 1,000 people. When we asked Ms. Haselow why she liked polka so much she said it was because "it is uplifting and makes people happy." What's more it has been her experience (and she has been involved with polka for most of her life) that the people who enjoy polka are "very loving" so "there is no animosity in this room." Written by: Michael Patterson Community Liaison, Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.