Dedicated volunteers, good music and and hundreds of guests made the 17th annual Prince Albert Polka Fest a weekend to remember.
The event took place this past weekend at the Exhibition Centre. The dance floor was filled until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday morning consisted of a pancake breakfast and entertainment.
Volunteer Lawrence Bodnar said they average 900 people over the three days and between 30 and 40 campers.
He’s been helping organize Polka Fest for its entire 17 years.
“I remember year one, we actually planted this seed. And the thing is, we were all excited about it and then all the sudden we looked out the window and said ‘Well, there’s one camper out there.’” He laughed.
Bodnar said people will come from other provinces, particularly Alberta and Manitoba. One year they had people from British Columbia.
“Some go on this Polka Fest circuit. They kind of travel their circuit, so that’s kind of nice. They meet at one place and then say ‘Oh, we’ll just meet you at the next Polka Fest’ and it just broadens, expands their friendship and it becomes like a reunion,” he said.
Despite the name, Bodnar said people don’t just polka—the music is also for two-stepping, waltzing, jiving and fox trotting.
The event is a fundraiser for the Prince Albert Exhibition Association. Bodnar said the money goes towards upgrading its grounds and buildings.
“I think it brings a lot of people into the city. For the people that are here, they can go out to our lakes and visit our other resources that are here. And it brings economy into the city,” he said.
This year’s bands included Dennis & Curtis Ficor, Leon Ochs, the Country Gentleman Band, the Gold Tones Band and the Ambrose Brothers Orchestra from Winnipeg.
“People who come would like to know who they’re dancing to,” said Bodnar. This is why they have a suggestion box for future bands.
They like to have mostly Saskatchewan music, but it’s more important to bring in bands that have a good following and are well received by their guests.
“It’s their Polka Fest. We’re hosting it,” emphasized Bodnar.
Father and son duo Dennis & Curtis Ficor are from Regina. They said they’ve been playing at Prince Albert’s Polka Fest for a few years.
“This whole area seems to be into the polka—polka, polka, polka and more polka,” said Dennis.
“This is probably the biggest Polka Fest in Saskatchewan. Maybe all of Canada or North America even. I haven’t seen any bigger ones than this.”
Curtis Ficor, 20, plays seven instruments, including the accordion, guitar, violin, banjo, trumpet and saxophone.
“We have to get some of the younger generation out,” he said.
“They don’t know what they’re missing,” agreed Dennis, who said he’s taken dance lessons.
“It’s actually easy. Very easy to dance, good exercise, you don’t have to go to the gym and look at four walls.”
The food on Saturday and Sunday was sponsored by Safeway, while the pancake breakfast was sponsored by Lake Country Co-op.
Next year’s Polka Fest takes place from August 21 to 23.