The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Features

May 16, 2010

Dance card

PolkaFest spins into region June 3-6

— Prepare to kick up those heels as the Friendly City PolkaFest returns to Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood.

The Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau and St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, co-sponsors of the event, are ready to welcome thousands of polka enthusiasts to the city June 3-6.

“What’s exciting about PolkaFest is that it’s the first opportunity to get outdoors, socialize and enjoy the first big party to kick off the summer festival season,” said Jayne Korenoski, the visitors bureau’s advertising and sales director.

“We have a phenomenal lineup this year with a mix of national award-winning bands as well as our local groups.”

The schedule includes Grammy-nominated band The Polka Family; Cleveland’s favorite polka band, the Don Wojtila Orchestra; 12-time Grammy-nominated group Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push; Grammy nominated The Maestro’s Men; and six more well-known bands.

The bands will be onstage at St. Mary’s pavilion, Fifth Avenue and Power Street, to provide continuous music throughout the three-day event.

The PolkaFest has earned the reputation of being one of the finest events of its kind.

“Our event is distinct because Slovenian and Polish bands alternate throughout the day,” Korenoski said.

“We’re unique because other cities around the country have tried the same format but failed.”

The CVB works in conjunction with William “Polish Bill” Marano of Jackson Township to promote the event and book top-notch bands.

“These are some of the best bands in the country, and a lot of these artists have either been nominated for or won Grammy Awards,” Korenoski said.

“We have hot bands that everyone wants to hear. Every day’s lineup is great.”

People come from throughout the country to enjoy PolkaFest.

“Attendance for all three days probably will 10,000 people,” Korenoski said. “We already have six busloads of people coming from around the country to take part in the festivities.”

A wooden dance floor provides the perfect platform for dancing to the continuous sounds of some extraordinary performers.

The weekend begins with a kickoff party from 6 to 9 p.m. June 3 with music by The Rhinelanders.

“This actually will give us a little German flavor for the festival,” Marano said.

He emphasized the fine talent coming to Johnstown for the PolkaFest.

“Our reputation for this festival is really growing,” Marano said.

“Word of mouth has made it known throughout the country that Johnstown is a city that opens its arms to visitors and makes them feel welcome.”

There is no admission fee to the event, and parking is free.

PolkaFest includes food, craft and merchandise vendors; tours of St. Mary’s church; and ethnic specialties prepared and served by members of St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church.

No festival is complete without food.

One of the event’s key organizers, Monsignor Raymond Balta, pastor of St. Mary’s, said the church will serve food all three days.

“We have been preparing well in advance and will be offering our usual foods,” Balta said. “Our menu includes crowd favorites such as pierogi, haluski and cabbage rolls.”

Thousands are expected to enjoy the festival and see what the city has to offer.

“People would be hard-pressed to go anywhere else and find such a complete package with the best bands, an array of ethnic foods and a community ready to embrace visitors in a welcoming way. There are few places that you can find that,” Balta said.

A Polka Mass will be celebrated in the pavilion at 11 a.m. June 6.

Seating is available, but guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

Information: (800) 237-8590, 536-7993 or visit online at www.visitjohnstownpa.com/

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