2018-06-21 / Life in Leelanau


37th annual Polka Fest to feature balloon rides, carnival, more
By Kelsey Pease
Enterprise intern

POLKAFEST PLANNERS (from left) Mike Taylor, Jim Houdek, Mary Taylor, Madeline Houdek, Brenda Bugai, BJ Christensen and Judy Bugai are ready to welcome visitors into Cedar tonight from near and far. POLKAFEST PLANNERS (from left) Mike Taylor, Jim Houdek, Mary Taylor, Madeline Houdek, Brenda Bugai, BJ Christensen and Judy Bugai are ready to welcome visitors into Cedar tonight from near and far. Cedar isn’t just the “Community that Cares” — it’s the community that kicks up its heels for four days straight every summer, and it will be doing exactly that starting tonight under the iconic big white tent.

A flag-raising ceremony will commence the 37th Annual Cedar Polka Fest at 5 p.m., followed by continuous music from polka bands Judy & Her Suchey Bros and New Generations, along with a weekend full of Polish dishes from local vendors, drinks and — most importantly — polka dancing.

“It’s always a fabulous festival,” said Judy Suchey, who’s performed at the event alongside her brothers for four years now. “People of all ages come out of the woodwork and onto the dance floor. And doggone it, they’re dressed well too.”

You won’t just see event goers shaking their hips out on the dance floor, though. The volunteers who make the event happen will also be seen celebrating their Polish heritage.

“Without these people, we wouldn’t have a festival,” said Mike Taylor, volunteer coordinator. “Some people have been coming since its inception and now it’s tradition. Others do because they just want to get involved. They come from all over the community.”

This weekend marks the second year in a row that the event is being held one week prior to it’s traditional start date.

And that’s a big change — considering it had been held on the last week of June since its inception in 1975.

“As far as I know, everyone is in agreement that it was a good change,” said Brenda Bugai, co-coordinator of the festival.

Confirming her assumption is BJ Christensen, who has been attending the festival since it began.

“People from the area are typically volunteering that week at the Cherry Festival or hosting family members for the 4th of July,” Christensen said. “Since they moved it ahead, more local people have been able to participate.”

The date isn’t the only successful change the signature event will be continuing this year.

“We’re trying to get the kids more involved,” Bugai said. “Last year we added a couple kids games. This year we’re blowing it up by having a carnival after the parade.”

The carnival will go from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and feature DJ music with an open dance floor, Clark the Juggler, games, face painting, crafting tables and souvenir necklace making. Kids 12 and under get in free and adult tickets purchased between 2 and 4 p.m. are half price and good all evening.

The parade, which will start Saturday at 1 p.m., is also experiencing a few modifications.

“We’ve been putting a lot of extra time and energy into it to make it new and improved,” Bugai said.

Perhaps the most notable change, though, is the hot air balloon that will be set up next to the tent. Tethered balloon rides, offering a bird’s-eye view of Cedar and all the festivities, will be offered tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The rides are sponsored by RE/MAX Bayshore and all donations will benefit Cedar Area Fire & Rescue for the purchase of much-needed equipment.

Regardless of the changes, the festival is still steeped with tradition.

And, Saturday, starting at 6:30 p.m., veterans and current military personnel will again be admitted at no cost.

The Polka Mass will take place on Sunday at 11 a.m.

The primary goal of the festival also still remains the same, even 43 years after its inauguration.

“We want it to bring people together, be fun and encourage everyone to celebrate polish heritage,” Bugai said.

Festival hours are Thursday 5 to 11 p.m., Friday 5 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 2 p.m. to midnight and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

Cost for admission Thursday, Friday and Saturday is $10 and $5 on Sunday.

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