Saskatchewan’s Grammy-nominated polka band, the Western Senators, are gearing up for their first weekend-long performance in two and a half years when they hit the stage this Friday and Saturday at the 18th edition of the Prince Albert Polka Fest.
“We’re dying to get out there,” said Senators’ bandleader, Brian Sklar. “We’re looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of our old friends.”
They will be joined by Canada’s Polka King, three time Grammy winner, Walter Ostanek, in addition to Dennis Ficor, Gold Tones Band and Leon Ochs rotating throughout the weekend.
Sklar said this weekend represents 27 years since the Senators first appeared with Walter at the Prince Albert Exhibition Grounds.
The Western Senators have been featured in two made-for-TV movies throughout their career. 1995’s award-winning Frankie and Walter, One More Time with America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, and Canada’s Grammy winning Polka King, Walter Ostanek; as well as 2006’s Cult of Walt which has been broadcast numerous times on the Bravo Television Channel.
One of the dates of the Frankie and Walter tour took place in Prince Albert.
“I brought Frankie Yankovic up from the states, America’s Polka King, united the two of them and we did four cities in Saskatchewan,” said Sklar. “Regina, Yorkton, Prince Albert and Saskatoon.”
Sklar said three years after the tour, Yankovic passed away at the age of 83.
“We’ve been working with Walter ever since,” he said. “Anything he books west of Ontario, he plays with the Western Senators.”
Walter and the Senators can also be seen on the hit TV show PolkaRama!, which airs throughout Saskatchewan.
Walter and the Senators are no strangers to Prince Albert, having performed many times there in the past.
Sklar was born and raised in Prince Albert and accordion player, Jordan Rody, also has many family ties to the city.
Jordan is third-generation in the band. His grandfather, Mike Kushneryk, was one of the original accordion players and from Prince Albert himself.
The band was born in Calgary in the 1970’s after the original group of musicians gathered at Kushneryk’s home to watch a football game.
“We were watching the Western Conference Final on TV and the Saskatchewan Roughriders won,” said Sklar. “We went downstairs, pulled out some accordions, and we started playing music. We said ‘Let’s go cut an album’, and we’ve been at it ever since.”
Tickets for Polka Fest are on sale now and are available at the PAEX Main Office or by calling (306) 941-8916.
The doors for the PA Exhibition Centre open at 4:30 p.m. on August 26 and the festival runs until August 28.