Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Celebrate polka in Central Pa. with WPSU-TV's Keystone Stories

Johnstown Polkafest
WPSU-TV's Keystone Stories screenshot
Johnstown Polkafest

WPSU’s TV and Digital series, Keystone Stories, explores the people, places and culture that make Central Pennsylvania unique. Monday, Oct. 2, the third episode of season 3 will focus on Polka music across Pennsylvania. First we go to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Polka Club, where they do Slovenian polka.

Here's the transcript of an excerpt of that episode. We suggest you listen to this story for the best experience.:

Monica Pierce:
We've been polka dancing for, gosh, since the '80s. I have two daughters here today, and I have two granddaughters here, and they love to polka.

Sophia Fisher & Kaitlyn Ray (Monica's Granddaughters):
Nana's been passionate about polka as long as I've known her. My whole life, obviously. And she's Italian and Swedish, but she likes to think she's Polish, which is super fun. And like Kaitlyn told me earlier, "everyone's Polish on Sunday." That's what Nana says all the time. And so there's some truth to that for sure. And we definitely feel that when we come to polka, and it's a blast.

Tootsie Sobolak:
I love it. I've been dancing since I've been 5. I was born to dance the polka and I'm now 95. It's a happy place to be. There's nobody that argues or fights or is mad at anybody. We're happy and the music is happy. You can't help but move it. I know I can't keep still.

Narrator Will Price:
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Polka Club features different artists at their events. Today, The stage is occupied by the Garrett Tatano Band from Pittsburgh.

Garrett Tatano:
So today we are at the Sunday Dance for the Punxsutawney Polka Club. They have dances all throughout the year. They've been doing these dances since way before I was even born. My grandparents actually were original members of the Punxsutawney Polka Club, and I remember coming here before I could even walk. I could dance, but I couldn't walk. I would come listen to the music. And it's pretty great to be able to have my own group and be able to be here and play for the folks that I've been with for a lot of years.

Narrator Will Price:
This happy music and happy dancing is on full display at the Johnstown Polka Fest. This three day festival has been held in Johnstown since 1998 and brings in fans from beyond Pennsylvania.

Ted Pajak:
We're in sunny Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at the polka capital this weekend in the United States. Every polka dancer should be here this weekend.

Jayne Korenosk:
We are in our 25th year of Polka Fest and we're at People’s Natural Gas Park, and we're getting ready for that 25th year of the best polka event anywhere.

John Stevens:
It brings families out, and that's where a lot of us all got into polka music by coming out with our families years ago.

Jayne Korenosk:
What makes us probably most unique is the fact that we do Polish and Slovenian bands on the same stage. That doesn't usually happen. Usually you'll go to a Polish event or you go to a Slovenian event.

Henry "Hank" Guzevich:
This is just a good time. You’ll see grandmothers and grandpas out there in their 80s and 90s, dancing. They're taking medication and they're drinking. It's craziness. So when you see people like that at that age, still functional, still having a good time, you're like, "you know what? That's got to be what life is." You know, I'm 60. I hope I'm doing that when I'm 90. You know, like them. It's kind of crazy.

Trish Corle:
This is a fantastic event for the city of Johnstown and all of Cambria County. It brings people, local people here. Visitors from other states come here to watch this and participate in it. I've been coming for years. It's a wonderful, wonderful event. 

Maria Thompson & Steve Thomas:
We came here from Wisconsin purely for the festival. It's great to be able to support the different bands. They travel far and wide and so the fans travel far and wide as well. It's actually diverse music that a lot of people can enjoy, So that's why we come out for it.

Trish Corle:
I think it's very important that we keep that heritage going, especially in our area. We are the melting pot. Johnstown is one of the areas where the immigrants came.

Ted Pajak:
I tell my family, Don't die, don't get married on Johnstown weekend because I won't be there.

- - -
That was just a taste of Polka festivals and fans around the state. Watch the full episode of “Keystone Stories - Polka” tonight at 9pm on WPSU-TV.

Keystone Stories is a television and digital series that takes viewers to the breathtaking, interesting, quirky and sometimes hidden gems around central Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s beautiful landscape serves as the backdrop for an exploration of the people, places and culture that make the region unique.