Dancing it up with the NATIVES- From Zimbabwe to the Poles at Johnstown, PA’s POLKA FEST

On Sunday mornings while I was growing up, my dad used to put “The Polka Show” on the radio on WEEU, Reading PA. While my mom cooked a roast after Mass, my dad would swing me around the living room and dining room. He beamed down at me. I smiled equally as big back up to him. I LOVED dancing with my dad.

When my Granmom Ross turned 100 years old, we had a huge party and rented a German Bavarian Band that played polkas and we got her out on the dance floor with all her great grandchildren. It is my heritage and although I love traveling to Zimbabwe to boogie it up with the African natives (see earlier blogs), my heart lies with the polka. 

So when I learned that the POLKA has been designated as Pennsylvania’s OFFICIAL dance, and the city of Johnstown was putting on a Polka Fest, it wasn’t difficult to convince my editor, Matt Holliday that we had to do a story for Pennsylvania Magazine. It was a little more difficult, however, to convince my son, Bryce that he needed to experience the life-changing abilities of polka dancing.

Bryce is often my photographer on stories when he is not attending Tyler School of Art at Temple. And as you can see from these photos, he did a marvelous job of capturing his mother, who never sat down for one single dance. I checked out all the men (no matter most of them are what Bryce calls “geezers”) and looked for the ones that were the most energetic, and moved the fastest.

I have been told that I do the “Chicago style” of polka dancing- which involves a lot of hopping. I can dance practically in the same spot just by going up and down and catching  air.  My dance partner pictured here was unbelievable for a 70+ year old. He never got out of breath, never said “no” to my dance requests, and completely blew off his wife, who must have been somewhere in the audience.

Towards the end of the afternoon, Bryce was catching on and having a great time too. I told him, this was his heritage and altho he is a break dancer at heart, it is good to be versatile.

That night, my legs ached a bit and the tendons in my feet, as I threw off my shoes first thing and danced all day barefoot, but come morning I could have started all over again. I announced to my husband, Todd when I returned home, that we are heading to Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottsville this summer to dance it up with one of the best polka bands in the east. He said, “I don’t think so,” and I said, “I DO think so.” Polka dancing is just what the doctor ordered for a introverted German/Swiss husband to loosen him up.

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