2017-06-29 / Life in Leelanau

Behind the scenes at Polka Fest

By Hannah Lentz
Enterprise intern


CEDAR POLKA fest workers (left to right) Rich Hounsell, Adolf Novak, Larry Bruckner and Butch Garvin. CEDAR POLKA fest workers (left to right) Rich Hounsell, Adolf Novak, Larry Bruckner and Butch Garvin. Larry Bruckner, Adolf Novak, Butch Garvin and Rich Hounsell have a lot in common. They all like to fish, they’re all Polish, they all like to polka, and they’ve all been working at the Cedar Polka Festival for as long as they can remember.

With a median age of 82 between the four of them, they don’t let the turning clock keep them down.

Each year, the “old crew,” as they like to call themselves, sets up everything from the dance floor to the fences.

“I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief,” said Rick Brett, who owns the Railroad Depot and helps out with the Polka Festival. “Every single day those guys are out there working, pounding stakes in, whatever needs to be done.”

Bruckner, 82, known more widely as “Mr. B,” has been polkaing since he was 12. His first experience with polka music was on the Brzezinski Farm in Cedar.


DANIELLE HANSON (left) and Janelle Budd serve drinks at the Cedar Polka Festival Thursday. DANIELLE HANSON (left) and Janelle Budd serve drinks at the Cedar Polka Festival Thursday. His grandparents owned the property and he would listen to polka music there whenever he could.

“I remember there was a program in Escanaba that went on at noon that played polka,” Bruckner said. “I would be out in the field and I would position the antenna on the radio just so that I could get the signal for the station.”

When Bruckner was older, he and his wife, Dorothy, traveled all around the nation looking for polka events.

“We went everywhere,” Bruckner said. “Except Hawaii.”

The pair also planned “polka weekends” where they would rent rooms in different venues to host a weekend of polka. One of their favorite and most used spots was Shanty Creek in Bellaire.


LOCAL FARMER John Norconk pulling the Cherry Propane float in the Cedar Polka Fest parade Saturday. LOCAL FARMER John Norconk pulling the Cherry Propane float in the Cedar Polka Fest parade Saturday. Bruckner has been working with the Cedar Polka Fest for about 15 years. One of his most important jobs, besides driving the forklift, is being the jokester of the group.

“We have a lot of fun,” he said.

Novak, 82, is a Cedar local. He has been helping out with the festival for around 40 years. Novak, who previously worked for the road commission, said the Polka Fest has a special place in his heart.

“I’ve loved polka music my whole life,” he said.

Not only does Novak love polka music himself, but he enjoys watching others enjoy it.

Sometimes, the dancing stage at the festival will be so filled that you can’t see the floor, Novak said.

“I’m glad to be working in the community,” Novak said. “It keeps me out of trouble.”

Garvin, 91, has been setting up the festival since its inception.

“The festival used to be only half a tent,” he said.

Though all the men used to polka their hearts away, they tend to stick to the sidelines now.

“My feet just don’t move that fast anymore,” Garvin said with a laugh.

Hounsell, the “young buck” at 71, has been helping out with the festival for quite some time as well.

Together, the group makes sure Polka Fest goes off without a hitch.

“We basically live here,” Garvin said.

Though they’ve figured out a thing or two over the years, the group is looking for some fresh talent to help out with prep work.

“We’re looking for some young blood, someone in their 60s,” Bruckner joked.

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