Part #1 (National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame)
Music Stars Shine at Polka Hall of Fame Awards
CLEVELAND, OH - 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. 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.
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. 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
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.
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). The youngest musicians were
Cleveland accordionist Joshua Kay, 15, and bass player Logan Watson, 16, of Greenville,
Forty-three musicians appeared on the main stage in the traditional jam session on
Friday evening. A high point was the Polka Mass, celebrated by Cleveland Bishop A.
Edward Pevec and Fr. Frank Perkovich of Minnesota.
"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
"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
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). 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.
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.
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.
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.