‘Sugartop’ embraces Polka Fest stage

Dianne Humble, aka Sugartop, (left) and Leon Ochs (right) pose for a photo at the Prince Albert Polka Fest on Friday. The festival runs until Sunday at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Dianne Humble is no stranger to the dance floor, but this dance floor is a bit different.

Humble, better known by her stage name ‘Sugartop’, has been performing live music since she was nine years old. Now at age 59, she’s performing at her first polka festival, the Prince Albert Polka Fest.

“We need to keep this old-time music alive,” Humble says with smile shortly before taking the stage on opening day. “It came from Europe over to here, and it’s been a big part of communities forever. We’ve got to keep it open.”

While Humble has plenty of experiencing in the music world, Friday’s performance marked a return to action. She performed as a two-piece musical duo with her husband for years before they retired as the number of dances started to dwindle.

She extended her hiatus from music when her husband died three years ago, but decided to make a return thanks to friend Leon Ochs, who invited her to keep playing.

Both Ochs and Humble were on stage Friday on Polka Fest’s opening night. Humble said it’s a great feeling to be back in the world of music.

“It’s a little bit of nerves, but 47 years ago Leon and I played in the same Orchestra, so it’s very exciting to be up there with him tonight,” she says. “He’s a big reason why I’m playing.”

Excitement was a common theme for attendees too when Polka Fest organizers opened the doors Friday afternoon.

Denis and Denise Roenspies have been traveling from Melfort to Polka Fest for years, but this is their first time back since before COVID hit. Both are excited to get dancing again.

“I think there’s a good crowd, and I know the music is going to be good,” Denise says.

“It’s always the same, walking into a dance hall. You’re looking to have a good time and meet all the people you used to see at all the polka fests,” Denis adds.

The Roenspies’ have traveled across Saskatchewan attending polka fests in various communities. The number of such festivals is on the decline, which makes them appreciate the Prince Albert Polka Fest even more.

“A lot of the polka people are older people, and the younger ones, I don’t think they’re catching on enough that it’s going to keep it going,” Denis says before trailing off.

“The crowds have cut back a bit,” he adds. “There’s not too many polka fests around anymore.”

Lifestyle is also a factor. Denis says it can be difficult to book a few days off for a festival with work or family commitments.

Both Denis and Denise hope the Prince Albert Polka Fest will stay strong for as long as they can keep dancing.

“I’d like to see them keep on as long as I can,” Denis says with a laugh.

The Prince Albert Polka Fest runs from Aug. 25-27 at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre. Tickets are $30 at the door on Saturday, and $15 at the door on Sunday with breakfast.

The doors open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with dancing from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. The pancake breakfast begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, with the music starting at 9 p.m.

The Gold Tones, Dean Bernier and Sylvia Shira, and Dennis and Curtis Ficor will perform on Saturday and Sunday. Rick Martin, Sugartop, the Gold Tones, and Leon Ochs will also perform on Sunday.