2018-06-21 / Life in Leelanau

Polka dancers prepped for big weekend

By Grant McPherson
Of The Enterprise staff

BJ CHRISTENSEN (pictured right in white) counts the steps Sunday at a polka primer inside the Solon Township Hall. BJ CHRISTENSEN (pictured right in white) counts the steps Sunday at a polka primer inside the Solon Township Hall. “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie!”

The Polish song played all throughout the Solon Township Hall on Sunday as folks learned to polka in time for the 37th annual Cedar Polka Fest.

The polka originated as a Czech dance, and the genre of dance music is familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the first half of the 19th century, and it became a very popular music genre in central and western Europe.

BJ Christensen taught anyone who showed up. About a dozen people were on hand to listen to the lessons from Christensen, but they were eager.

“We’ve probably been doing this for about 16 or 17 years,” Christensen said. “We teach the basic steps and little twirls.”

Christensen had everyone learn the basic steps by themselves before everyone paired up. The steps came naturally for most.

And that’s a good thing, because there’ll be plenty of opportunities to dance this weekend. Judy & Her Suchey Bros, New Generations Polka Band, New Brass Express Polka Band and Dyna Brass will be on stage for the festivities.

Two attendees, Joe and Kristin Meredith, had never really polkaed before.

Joe said they attended the Polka festival two years ago, though, and that they had a blast dancing to the Polish music.

“It was a really fun time when we went,” he said.

He also talked about the Polish Mass that was held during the Sunday of the festival.

“It was a really unique Mass,” he said.

Others interested in polkaing are encouraged to make their way to Cedar this weekend. It isn’t easy for everyone to pick up, but there’ll likely be plenty of willing teachers in attendance.

There’ll also be great food, beer, wine and other activities for attendees to enjoy.

And, of course, the Polka Fest serves as a great opportunity to celebrate Polish heritage.

Mary (Wisniewski) Woods attended Polish schools throughout her life and has even participated in Polish dance groups.

“I was part of the Kujawiaki Polish dance ensemble,” Woods said. “We toured all over the states and Europe. My family attends Polka Fest every year, and all of my kids can polka.”

Mary Todd is half Polish, and has been able to reconnect with family at the polish festival.

“I have been able to reconnect with a cousin because of our Polish heritage,” Todd said. “Being polish means a lot to me.”

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