2017-06-22 / Life in Leelanau

Polka therapy: Dancing more than a hobby for Lake Leelanau couple

By Hannah Lentz
Enterprise intern

MAJEAN AND Kelly Sparks (from left) love to dance polka Tuesdays at the Leelanau Sands Showroom. MAJEAN AND Kelly Sparks (from left) love to dance polka Tuesdays at the Leelanau Sands Showroom. Kelly and Majean Sparks of Lake Leelanau never miss a Tuesday polka party at Leelanau Sands Casino, and if they do, they still find a way to dance.

Not long ago, the Sparks were traveling to visit their daughter in Virginia on the day of a polka party. In order to keep to their strict polka dancing schedule, they stopped at a rest stop, turned the music up loud in their car, opened the windows and danced in the parking lot, Kelly said.

“You ought to have seen the people laughing and trying to figure out what was going on,” Majean said. “After being in the car for three hours we needed a break, so what better way?”

Polka is something they learned to love together after Majean’s brother returned from the service.

“I wasn’t allowed to dance. I was from a strict, Lutheran family,” Majean said. “My brother said to me, ‘Majean, you like rhythm, you like music, you would love the polka.’ We started going to dance with them about five years into our marriage.”

When they first started dancing, they would go to the Sugarloaf Tavern, Maple City and the Cedar Polka Festival. Today, they mostly stick to the Tuesday dances.

For them, polka dancing is more than a hobby. It’s a healthy lifestyle choice.

Kelly started noticing problems with his legs in the last couple of years. After finding out the couple danced the polka, Kelly’s vascular surgeon told them what a great exercise it was.

“Now we don’t call it dancing,” she said. “We call it going to therapy.”

Several people from the community with health ailments come to dance and to get their exercise in as well, she said.

They’ve made many friends along the way, friends they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

“We never would have gotten acquainted with a lot of the people around here that we have met,” he said.

For Kelly, Tuesday polka is also an opportunity to meet up with friends from the past.

Several people who retired from the State of Michigan, where Kelly also worked, as well as several of his classmates from Mesick attend the dances.

“We have a regular class reunion some weeks,” Kelly said.

The polka group also comes together to celebrate everything from anniversaries to birthdays.

Residents from nursing homes in the Traverse City area attend, as well.

“It’s a wonderful thing that the band does for the seniors,” Majean said. “A lot of them will just sit and talk and visit. Most of them will dance a little bit. We’re really grateful for this and all the friends we’ve made.”

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