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Polka Hall of Fame 2014

Polka Hall of Fame Music Awards
Cleveland Marriott Hotel
November 29, 2014
by Joe Valencic

The Frank Stanger Orchestra repeated as Band of the Year at the 27th annual polka music awards ceremony presented by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday, November 29, 2014. Accordionist Brian O'Boyle was voted Musician of the year by the Polka Hall of Fame membership. Cleveland musician and radio host Denny Bucar and the late Kansas City bandleader and accordion champion Don Lipovac were inducted for their lifetime achievements in polka music.

Brian O'Boyle won Musician of the Year at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show

Brian O'Boyle won Musician of the Year
at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show


The musical stage show was the high point of the 51st Thanksgiving Polka Party Weekend, held at the Downtown Cleveland Marriott Hotel. This was the first time the Awards Show was staged in the hotel's Grand Ballroom.

Kim Rodick, Vocalist of the Year, and Katie Miskulin performed Ej, Prijatelj at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show.

Kim Rodick, Vocalist of the Year, and Katie Miskulin performed
'Ej, Prijatelj' at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show


The Awards Show theme, "Down at the Friendly Tavern," paid tribute to the clubs, halls and lounges that hosted polka dances. Large-scale murals of vintage tavern photos were displayed on the ballroom walls. Several Polka Hall of Fame honorees appeared, including Canada's Polka King, Walter Ostanek; Wisconsin accordionist Hank Thunander; accordionist Fred Ziwich; and banjo musician Ron Sluga.

Featured performers included accordionists Alex Meixner (FL), Brian McCarty (KS), and Fritz Scherz (NY); TV's Chardon Polka Band; the Button Box Divas; the Don Wojtila Orchestra; the Jeff Pecon Orchestra; and banjo musician Bob Yankovic.

Linda Hochevar in the spotlight at the Polka Hall of Fame Polka Party Weekend

Linda Hochevar in the spotlight
at the Polka Hall of Fame Polka Party Weekend


The Awards Show orchestra was led by Tom Mroczka. The master of ceremonies was Ray Somich of WINT. The show was directed by Ray Somich II and produced by Joe Valencic. Each guest received a 64-page souvenir program book.

The Thanksgiving Polka Party Weekend brought polka entertainers from around the country for the three-day polka event. Nearly 700 room nights were booked at the Marriott.

Kathy Zamejc Vogt of St. Catherines, Ontario, brought a busload of Slovenian music fans to the Polka Hall of Fame Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend.

Kathy Zamejc Vogt of St. Catherines, Ontario, brought a busload of Slovenian music fans to the Polka Hall of Fame Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend


Performers included accordionist Joey Miskulin of Nashville's cowboy combo Riders in the Sky, and orchestras led by Frank Moravcik (OH), Ed Klancnik (MI), Linda Lee Brown (MI), Mike Schneider (WI), Fritz Scherz (NY), Rob DeBlander (MI), Frank Stanger (PA), Mike Luteran (OH), and the Skovenski Family (PA).

Polka Stars of Tomorrow jammed at the Polka Hall of Fame Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend

Polka Stars of Tomorrow jammed at the Polka Hall of Fame
Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend


The youngest musicians were Cleveland accordionist Joshua Kay, 15, and bass player Logan Watson, 16, of Greenville, PA.

Forty-three musicians appeared on the main stage in the traditional jam session on Friday evening.

Canada's Polka King Walter Ostanek led the jam session at the Polka Hall of Fame Polka Party Weekend

Canada's Polka King Walter Ostanek led the jam session
at the Polka Hall of Fame Polka Party Weekend


A high point was the Polka Mass, celebrated by Cleveland Bishop A. Edward Pevec and Fr. Frank Perkovich of Minnesota.

Joe Valencic, Polka Hall of Fame President, and Mark Habat, Vice President, with Bishop Edward Pevec after the Polka Mass at the Thanksgiving Polka Party Weekend.

Joe Valencic, Polka Hall of Fame President, and Mark Habat, Vice President, with Bishop Edward Pevec after the Polka Mass


"Cleveland becomes the Polka Capital of America with this festival every Thanksgiving," said Joe Valencic, President of the Polka Hall of Fame. "Fans arrived from twenty states, Canada and the Netherlands, where Cleveland-Style polka music has a strong following."

Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek congratulated Lifetime Achievement inductee Denny Bucar at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show

Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek congratulated Lifetime Achievement inductee Denny Bucar at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show


"Polka music is happiness and pure joy," said accordionist Rebecca Huck, 20, who attended the weekend with parents Sabine and Herman from Parker Heights, Texas. "I love the beat and I love the music." Rebecca played along in several musical jam sessions.

Other 2014 polka music award winners were Kathy Hlad for Button Accordionist; Patty C and the Guys for Button Accordion Ensemble; Kim Skovenski for Vocalist; and the SNPJ Heritage Center for Culture and Heritage. Three side musicians received awards: Mark Habat (Fred Ziwich and the International Sound Machine), Jim Penko (Joey Tomsick Orchestra), and Brian Zupancic (Joe Novak and Friends).

Joe Novak accepted a Side Musician of the Year trophy for his bandmate Brian Zupancic at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show

Joe Novak accepted a Side Musician of the Year trophy for his bandmate
Brian Zupancic at the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show


The Recording of the Year was presented to Bob Kravos and Walter Ostanek for "We Are Back." The Support and Promotion category was won by Mark Habat, Vice President of the Polka Hall of Fame and Chairman of the Thanksgiving Polka Weekend.


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Polka Hall of Fame members also voted in two all-time hits songs, "Iron Mike," a polka standard adapted in 1971 by the late Cleveland bandleader Johnny Pecon from on an old Slovenian folk melody, and "El Rio Drive," a polka with a Tex-Mex flair written in 1985 by the late bandleader Verne Meisner of Wisconsin.

Alex Meixner and Joey Tomsick on stage at the Polka Hall of Fame Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend

Alex Meixner and Joey Tomsick on stage at the Polka Hall of Fame Thanksgiving Polka Party weekend


Six entertainers were added to the Polka Hall of Fame Trustees Honor Roll: saxophonists Tommy Grahek, Jerry Jasinski and Ted Lysiak; bandleader and accordionist Tony Trontel; the late accordionist and music teacher William Sneller; and the late Sheila Salvato, a musician with Down Syndrome.

Musicians and leaders of Slovenian and nationality organizations founded the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame was founded in 1987. Museum exhibits trace the story of Cleveland's home-grown dance music from its roots in the city's Slovenian neighborhoods to nationwide popularity. Historic instruments include an accordion belonging to Frank Yankovic, America's Polka King.

The archive preserves 6,500 vintage recordings, some dating back a century. Each year, the organization's 1,300 members vote for best album and top musicians by category. The Polka Hall of Fame's annual Awards Show celebrates this style of American popular music. The Thanksgiving Polka Weekend was established in 1963 by radio host Tony Petkovsek, who serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Hall of Fame.

Tony Petkovsek points out a vintage photo mural of his father, Tony Sr., at his Birch Bar

Tony Petkovsek points out a vintage photo mural
of his father, Tony Sr., at his Birch Bar


The Polka Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 605 East 222nd Street in Euclid, Ohio, in the historic former Euclid City Hall. Admission is free. Polka and Slovenian CDs are on sale on-line and in the museum store. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 11:00 to 4:00. For more information, call (216) 261-FAME, toll-free (866) 66-POLKA, or check Facebook or the website, www.polkafame.com.

Dancing at the Polka Hall of Fame Music Awards




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